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PLoS Genet. 2013 Oct;9(10):e1003916. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003916. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

The Fusarium graminearum histone H3 K27 methyltransferase KMT6 regulates development and expression of secondary metabolite gene clusters.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, United States of America.


The cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum produces secondary metabolites toxic to humans and animals, yet coordinated transcriptional regulation of gene clusters remains largely a mystery. By chromatin immunoprecipitation and high-throughput DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq) we found that regions with secondary metabolite clusters are enriched for trimethylated histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3), a histone modification associated with gene silencing. H3K27me3 was found predominantly in regions that lack synteny with other Fusarium species, generally subtelomeric regions. Di- or trimethylated H3K4 (H3K4me2/3), two modifications associated with gene activity, and H3K27me3 are predominantly found in mutually exclusive regions of the genome. To find functions for H3K27me3, we deleted the gene for the putative H3K27 methyltransferase, KMT6, a homolog of Drosophila Enhancer of zeste, E(z). The kmt6 mutant lacks H3K27me3, as shown by western blot and ChIP-seq, displays growth defects, is sterile, and constitutively expresses genes for mycotoxins, pigments and other secondary metabolites. Transcriptome analyses showed that 75% of 4,449 silent genes are enriched for H3K27me3. A subset of genes that were enriched for H3K27me3 in WT gained H3K4me2/3 in kmt6. A largely overlapping set of genes showed increased expression in kmt6. Almost 95% of the remaining 2,720 annotated silent genes showed no enrichment for either H3K27me3 or H3K4me2/3 in kmt6. In these cases mere absence of H3K27me3 was insufficient for expression, which suggests that additional changes are required to activate genes. Taken together, we show that absence of H3K27me3 allowed expression of an additional 14% of the genome, resulting in derepression of genes predominantly involved in secondary metabolite pathways and other species-specific functions, including putative secreted pathogenicity factors. Results from this study provide the framework for novel targeted strategies to control the "cryptic genome", specifically secondary metabolite expression.

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