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Mol Cell. 2010 Sep 24;39(6):886-900. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2010.08.020.

Polycomb group protein displacement and gene activation through MSK-dependent H3K27me3S28 phosphorylation.

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Biotech Research and Innovation Centre, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen N, Denmark.


Epigenetic regulation of chromatin structure is essential for the expression of genes determining cellular specification and function. The Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) di- and trimethylates histone H3 on lysine 27 (H3K27me2/me3) to establish repression of specific genes in embryonic stem cells and during differentiation. How the Polycomb group (PcG) target genes are regulated by environmental cues and signaling pathways is quite unexplored. Here, we show that the mitogen- and stress-activated kinases (MSK), through a mechanism that involves promoter recruitment, histone H3K27me3S28 phosphorylation, and displacement of PcG proteins, lead to gene activation. We present evidence that the H3K27me3S28 phosphorylation is functioning in response to stress signaling, mitogenic signaling, and retinoic acid (RA)-induced neuronal differentiation. We propose that MSK-mediated H3K27me3S28 phosphorylation serves as a mechanism to activate a subset of PcG target genes determined by the biological stimuli and thereby modulate the gene expression program determining cell fate.

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