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Mol Cell. 2004 Nov 5;16(3):453-63.

Recruitment of histone modifications by USF proteins at a vertebrate barrier element.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The chicken beta-globin 5'HS4 insulator element acts as a barrier to the encroachment of chromosomal silencing. Endogenous 5'HS4 sequences are highly enriched with histone acetylation and H3K4 methylation regardless of neighboring gene expression. We report here that 5'HS4 elements recruit these histone modifications when protecting a reporter transgene from chromosomal silencing. Deletion studies identified a single protein binding site within 5'HS4, footprint IV, that is necessary for the recruitment of histone modifications and for barrier activity. We have determined that USF proteins bind to footprint IV. USF1 is present in complexes with histone modifying enzymes in cell extracts, and these enzymes specifically interact with the endogenous 5'HS4 element. Knockdown of USF1 expression leads to a loss of histone modification recruitment and subsequent encroachment of H3K9 methylation. We propose that barrier activity requires the constitutive recruitment of H3K4 methylation and histone acetylation at multiple residues to counteract the propagation of condensed chromatin structures.

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