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EMBO J. 2008 Oct 22;27(20):2681-90. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.192. Epub 2008 Sep 25.

G9a/GLP complexes independently mediate H3K9 and DNA methylation to silence transcription.

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Experimental Research Center for Infectious Diseases, Institute for Virus Research, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan.


Methylation of DNA and lysine 9 of histone H3 (H3K9) are well-conserved epigenetic marks for transcriptional silencing. Although H3K9 methylation directs DNA methylation in filamentous fungi and plants, this pathway has not been corroborated in mammals. G9a and GLP/Eu-HMTase1 are two-related mammalian lysine methyltransferases and a G9a/GLP heteromeric complex regulates H3K9 methylation of euchromatin. To elucidate the function of G9a/GLP-mediated H3K9 methylation in the regulation of DNA methylation and transcriptional silencing, we characterized ES cells expressing catalytically inactive mutants of G9a and/or GLP. Interestingly, in ES cells expressing a G9a-mutant/GLP complex that does not rescue global H3K9 methylation, G9a/GLP-target genes remain silent. The CpG sites of the promoter regions of these genes were hypermethylated in such mutant ES cells, but hypomethylated in G9a- or GLP-KO ES cells. Treatment with a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor reactivates these G9a/GLP-target genes in ES cells expressing catalytically inactive G9a/GLP proteins, but not the wild-type proteins. This is the first clear evidence that G9a/GLP suppresses transcription by independently inducing both H3K9 and DNA methylation.

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