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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