Expanding the network of enzymes affecting methylation atH3K4 (histone 3 lysine 4) during Caenorhabditis elegansembryogenesis

  • Elizabeth Wilkins

    Student thesis: Phd


    Post translational modifications (PTMs) of histone tails are an important determinantof chromatin structure, and can act as key regulators of DNA-dependent processes.Methylation of histone 3 at lysine 4 (H3K4) is one of the most widely studied PTMsbecause of its correlation with transcription. Three methylation states exist at H3K4:mono-, di, and tri-methylation (H3K4me1, -me2, and -me3, respectively). Eachmethylation state occupies a distinct genomic position, supporting the view that theextent of methylation at H3K4 has a functional significance. However, the exactbiological function of these three marks are not well understood. H3K4 methylation iswritten by SET domain-containing enzymes that function within SET/COMPASS/MLLcomplexes. Our lab has previously identified the SET-16 enzyme as writing H3K4me3in C. elegans. The other well-characterised H3K4-specific methyltransferases in theworm is SET-2, an enzymes responsible for bulk H3K4me2/me3 levels. Usingtargeted RNAi screens, we have charecterised the full landscape of SET domainenzymes affecting all three methylation states at H3K4 during embryogenesis in C.elegans (Chapter 3). Unexpectedly, many previously uncharacterised enzymes wereidentified as preferentially affecting each of the methylation states, including SET-19that can deposit all three marks, and several candidates that preferentially affectH3K4me1: SET-30, SET-27, MES-2, and MES-4. During the project, Greer et al. 2014independently identified two enzymes with activities targeting H3K4, SET-17 andSET-30, which were also candidates from our RNAi screens. With a focus on enzymesacting on H3K4me1, we demonstrate that H3K4me1 candidates can show differentpatterns of temporal regulation and also have roles in regulating soma versusgermline cell-fate decisions (Chapter 4). Finally, we demonstrate a novel role for MES-2 (a methyltransferase enzyme with a highly conserved role in depositing repressiveH3K27 methylation) in acting alongside the SPR-5 H3K4me2 demethylase to regulatelevels of H3K4me1 during embryogenesis (Chapter 5).
    Date of Award31 Dec 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorGino Poulin (Supervisor) & Alan Whitmarsh (Supervisor)


    • C. elegans
    • Chromatin
    • Histones
    • Lysine
    • Methylation
    • Embryogenesis

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