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Structural insights into the recognition of histone H3Q5 serotonylation by WDR5

By Jie Zhao, Wanbiao Chen, Yinfeng Zhang, Fan Yang, Nan Shen, Xuan Zhang, Xi Mo, Jianye Zang

Posted 25 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.24.424296

Serotonylation of histone H3Q5 (H3Q5ser) is a recently identified posttranslational modification of histones that apparently acts as a permissive marker for gene activation in synergy with H3K4me3 during neuronal cell differentiation. However, any proteins which specifically recognize H3Q5ser remain unknown. Here, we discovered that WDR5 interacts with the N-terminal tail of histone H3 and functions as a reader for H3Q5ser. Crystal structures of WDR5 in complex with H3Q5ser and H3K4me3Q5ser peptides revealed that the serotonyl group is accommodated in a shallow surface pocket of WDR5. Experiments in neuroblastoma cells demonstrate that WDR5 colocalizes with H3Q5ser in the promoter regions of cancer-promoting genes, where it promotes gene transcription to induce cell proliferation. Thus, beyond revealing a previously unknown mechanism through which WDR5 reads H3Q5ser to activate transcription, our study suggests that this WDR5-H3Q5ser mediated epigenetic regulation apparently promotes tumorigenesis.

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