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Genome Biol Evol. 2019 Feb 1;11(2):572-585. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evz010.

Discovery and Evolution of New Domains in Yeast Heterochromatin Factor Sir4 and Its Partner Esc1.

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Sorbonne Université, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, UMR CNRS 7590, IRD, Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie, IMPMC, Paris, France.
National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.
Institut de Biologie François Jacob, IRCM/SIGRR/LTR, INSERM U1274, Université Paris-Saclay, CEA Paris-Saclay, Paris, France.
Sorbonne Université, UMR CNRS 7238, IBPS, Laboratoire de Biologie Computationnelle et Quantitative (LCQB), Paris, France.


Sir4 is a core component of heterochromatin found in yeasts of the Saccharomycetaceae family, whose general hallmark is to harbor a three-loci mating-type system with two silent loci. However, a large part of the Sir4 amino acid sequences has remained unexplored, belonging to the dark proteome. Here, we analyzed the phylogenetic profile of yet undescribed foldable regions present in Sir4 as well as in Esc1, an Sir4-interacting perinuclear anchoring protein. Within Sir4, we identified a new conserved motif (TOC) adjacent to the N-terminal KU-binding motif. We also found that the Esc1-interacting region of Sir4 is a Dbf4-related H-BRCT domain, only present in species possessing the HO endonuclease and in Kluveryomyces lactis. In addition, we found new motifs within Esc1 including a motif (Esc1-F) that is unique to species where Sir4 possesses an H-BRCT domain. Mutagenesis of conserved amino acids of the Sir4 H-BRCT domain, known to play a critical role in the Dbf4 function, shows that the function of this domain is separable from the essential role of Sir4 in transcriptional silencing and the protection from HO-induced cutting in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In the more distant methylotrophic clade of yeasts, which often harbor a two-loci mating-type system with one silent locus, we also found a yet undescribed H-BRCT domain in a distinct protein, the ISWI2 chromatin-remodeling factor subunit Itc1. This study provides new insights on yeast heterochromatin evolution and emphasizes the interest of using sensitive methods of sequence analysis for identifying hitherto ignored functional regions within the dark proteome.


Asf2; Dbf4; Esc1; H-BRCT; Itc1; Sir4; hydrophobic cluster analysis; mating-type switching

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