Characterization of the plant homeodomain (PHD) reader family for their histone tail interactions

Epigenetics & Chromatin
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Jain K, Fraser CS, Marunde MR, Parker MM, Sagum C, Burg JM, Hall N, Popova IK, Rodriguez KL, Vaidya A, Krajewski K, Keogh MC, Bedford MT and Strahl BD.

Epigenetics & Chromatin. 2020;13:3.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13072-020-0328-z

ABSTRACT

Background

Plant homeodomain (PHD) fingers are central “readers” of histone post-translational modifications (PTMs) with > 100 PHD finger-containing proteins encoded by the human genome. Many of the PHDs studied to date bind to unmodified or methylated states of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4). Additionally, many of these domains, and the proteins they are contained in, have crucial roles in the regulation of gene expression and cancer development. Despite this, the majority of PHD fingers have gone uncharacterized; thus, our understanding of how these domains contribute to chromatin biology remains incomplete.

Results

We expressed and screened 123 of the annotated human PHD fingers for their histone binding preferences using reader domain microarrays. A subset (31) of these domains showed strong preference for the H3 N-terminal tail either unmodified or methylated at H3K4. These H3 readers were further characterized by histone peptide microarrays and/or AlphaScreen to comprehensively define their H3 preferences and PTM cross-talk.

Conclusions

The high-throughput approaches utilized in this study establish a compendium of binding information for the PHD reader family with regard to how they engage histone PTMs and uncover several novel reader domain–histone PTM interactions (i.e., PHRF1 and TRIM66). This study highlights the usefulness of high-throughput analyses of histone reader proteins as a means of understanding how chromatin engagement occurs biochemically.