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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Nov 4;105(44):16831-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808687105. Epub 2008 Oct 14.

A PHD-polycomb repressive complex 2 triggers the epigenetic silencing of FLC during vernalization.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, John Innes Centre, Norwich NR4 7UH, United Kingdom.


Vernalization, the acceleration of flowering by winter, involves cold-induced epigenetic silencing of Arabidopsis FLC. This process has been shown to require conserved Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) components including the Su(z)12 homologue, VRN2, and two plant homeodomain (PHD) finger proteins, VRN5 and VIN3. However, the sequence of events leading to FLC repression was unclear. Here we show that, contrary to expectations, VRN2 associates throughout the FLC locus independently of cold. The vernalization-induced silencing is triggered by the cold-dependent association of the PHD finger protein VRN5 to a specific domain in FLC intron 1, and this association is dependent on the cold-induced PHD protein VIN3. In plants returned to warm conditions, VRN5 distribution changes, and it associates more broadly over FLC, coincident with significant increases in H3K27me3. Biochemical purification of a VRN5 complex showed that during prolonged cold a PHD-PRC2 complex forms composed of core PRC2 components (VRN2, SWINGER [an E(Z) HMTase homologue], FIE [an ESC homologue], MSI1 [p55 homologue]), and three related PHD finger proteins, VRN5, VIN3, and VEL1. The PHD-PRC2 activity increases H3K27me3 throughout the locus to levels sufficient for stable silencing. Arabidopsis PHD-PRC2 thus seems to act similarly to Pcl-PRC2 of Drosophila and PHF1-PRC2 of mammals. These data show FLC silencing involves changed composition and dynamic redistribution of Polycomb complexes at different stages of the vernalization process, a mechanism with greater parallels to Polycomb silencing of certain mammalian loci than the classic Drosophila Polycomb targets.

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