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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 May 11;101(19):7357-62. Epub 2004 May 3.

Distinct localization of histone H3 acetylation and H3-K4 methylation to the transcription start sites in the human genome.

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Department of Urology, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1441 Eastlake Avenue, MS 8302L, Los Angeles, CA 90089-9181.


Almost 1-2% of the human genome is located within 500 bp of either side of a transcription initiation site, whereas a far larger proportion (approximately 25%) is potentially transcribable by elongating RNA polymerases. This observation raises the question of how the genome is packaged into chromatin to allow start sites to be recognized by the regulatory machinery at the same time as transcription initiation, but not elongation, is blocked in the 25% of intragenic DNA. We developed a chromatin scanning technique called ChAP, coupling the chromatin immunoprecipitation assay with arbitrarily primed PCR, which allows for the rapid and unbiased comparison of histone modification patterns within the eukaryotic nucleus. Methylated lysine 4 (K4) and acetylated K9/14 of histone H3 were both highly localized to the 5' regions of transcriptionally active human genes but were greatly decreased downstream of the start sites. Our results suggest that the large transcribed regions of human genes are maintained in a deacetylated conformation in regions read by elongating polymerase. Common models depicting widespread histone acetylation and K4 methylation throughout the transcribed unit do not therefore apply to the majority of human genes.

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