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Cell Rep. 2014 Jul 24;8(2):321-5. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.07.001.

Ruled by ubiquitylation: a new order for polycomb recruitment.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Umeå University, Byggnad 6L, NUS, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden. Electronic address:
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Rutgers University, 604 Allison Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA. Electronic address:


Polycomb complexes are found in most cells, but they must be targeted to specific genes in specific cell types in order to regulate pluripotency and differentiation. The recruitment of Polycomb complexes to specific targets has been widely thought to occur in two steps: first, one complex, PRC2, produces histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27) trimethylation at a specific gene, and then the PRC1 complex is recruited by its ability to bind to H3K27me3. Now, three new articles turn this model upside-down by showing that binding of a variant PRC1 complex and subsequent H2A ubiquitylation of surrounding chromatin is sufficient to trigger the recruitment of PRC2 and H3K27 trimethylation. These studies also show that ubiquitylated H2A is directly sensed by PRC2 and that ablation of PRC1-mediated H2A ubiquitylation impairs genome-wide PRC2 binding and disrupts mouse development.

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