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J Virol. 2012 Sep;86(18):9817-27. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00581-12. Epub 2012 Jul 3.

Histone H3 lysine 4 methylation marks postreplicative human cytomegalovirus chromatin.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.


In the nuclei of permissive cells, human cytomegalovirus genomes form nucleosomal structures initially resembling heterochromatin but gradually switching to a euchromatin-like state. This switch is characterized by a decrease in histone H3 K9 methylation and a marked increase in H3 tail acetylation and H3 K4 methylation across the viral genome. We used ganciclovir and a mutant virus encoding a reversibly destabilized DNA polymerase to examine the impact of DNA replication on histone modification dynamics at the viral chromatin. The changes in H3 tail acetylation and H3 K9 methylation proceeded in a DNA replication-independent fashion. In contrast, the increase in H3 K4 methylation proved to depend widely on viral DNA synthesis. Consistently, labeling of nascent DNA using "click chemistry" revealed preferential incorporation of methylated H3 K4 into viral (but not cellular) chromatin during or following DNA replication. This study demonstrates largely selective epigenetic tagging of postreplicative human cytomegalovirus chromatin.

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