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J Biol Chem. 2013 Jul 5;288(27):19882-99. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.473181. Epub 2013 May 20.

Single cell analysis of RNA-mediated histone H3.3 recruitment to a cytomegalovirus promoter-regulated transcription site.

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Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program, Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Unlike the core histones, which are incorporated into nucleosomes concomitant with DNA replication, histone H3.3 is synthesized throughout the cell cycle and utilized for replication-independent (RI) chromatin assembly. The RI incorporation of H3.3 into nucleosomes is highly conserved and occurs at both euchromatin and heterochromatin. However, neither the mechanism of H3.3 recruitment nor its essential function is well understood. Several different chaperones regulate H3.3 assembly at distinct sites. The H3.3 chaperone, Daxx, and the chromatin-remodeling factor, ATRX, are required for H3.3 incorporation and heterochromatic silencing at telomeres, pericentromeres, and the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter. By evaluating H3.3 dynamics at a CMV promoter-regulated transcription site in a genetic background in which RI chromatin assembly is blocked, we have been able to decipher the regulatory events upstream of RI nucleosomal deposition. We find that at the activated transcription site, H3.3 accumulates with sense and antisense RNA, suggesting that it is recruited through an RNA-mediated mechanism. Sense and antisense transcription also increases after H3.3 knockdown, suggesting that the RNA signal is amplified when chromatin assembly is blocked and attenuated by nucleosomal deposition. Additionally, we find that H3.3 is still recruited after Daxx knockdown, supporting a chaperone-independent recruitment mechanism. Sequences in the H3.3 N-terminal tail and αN helix mediate both its recruitment to RNA at the activated transcription site and its interaction with double-stranded RNA in vitro. Interestingly, the H3.3 gain-of-function pediatric glioblastoma mutations, G34R and K27M, differentially affect H3.3 affinity in these assays, suggesting that disruption of an RNA-mediated regulatory event could drive malignant transformation.


Antisense RNA; Chromatin Regulation; Chromatin Remodeling; Gene Expression; Gene Regulation; Gene Silencing; Microscopy; Nuclear Organization; RNA; Transcription

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