Chromatin regulation Tip(60)s the balance in embryonic stem cell self-renewal

Thomas G Fazzio, Jason T Huff, Barbara Panning
Cell Cycle 2008 November 1, 7 (21): 3302-6
Histone modifications affect chromatin dynamics on several levels by serving as binding sites for regulatory proteins. In many cell types, including embryonic stem cells (ESCs), a subset of genes is marked with histone modifications thought to be both activating and repressing: H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) and lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3), respectively. As a result, genes bearing this "bivalent" mark are transcribed at low levels, but are primed for activation, should the cell receive the appropriate cues during differentiation. Recently, we found that the Tip60-p400 acetyltransferase and histone exchange complex is necessary to maintain normal self-renewal in mouse ESCs. While Tip60-p400 has histone acetyltransferase activity, which is generally associated with transcriptional activation, it acts predominantly as a repressor of genes expressed during differentiation. Surprisingly, in ESCs Tip60-p400 localizes to the promoters of genes marked by H3K4me3, which include both highly expressed genes and "bivalent" genes expressed at low levels. Tip60-p400 acetylates histones at these targets, including the promoters for developmental regulators it helps to silence in ESCs. This suggests that the effect of chromatin modifications on transcription is not always simply positive or negative. Rather, we propose that the impact of specific modifications at each promoter is determined by the chromatin context in which they are found.

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