Human lysine demethylase KDM5A is a chromatin modifying enzyme associated with transcriptional regulation due to its ability to catalyze removal of methyl groups from methylated lysine 4 of histone H3 (H3K4me3). Amplification of KDM5A is observed in a number of cancers, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, lung cancer and gastric cancer. In this study, we employed alanine scanning mutagenesis to investigate substrate recognition of KDM5A and identify the H3 tail residues necessary for KDM5A-catalyzed demethylation. Our data show that the H3Q5 residue is critical for substrate recognition by KDM5A. Our data also reveal that the protein-protein interactions between KDM5A and the histone H3 tail extend beyond the amino acids proximal to the substrate mark. Specifically, demethylation activity assays show that deletion or mutation of residues at positions 14-18 on the H3 tail results in an 8-fold increase in the KMapp compared to wild-type 18mer peptide, suggesting this distal epitope is important in histone engagement. Finally, we demonstrate that post-translational modifications on this distal epitope can modulate KDM5A-dependent demethylation. Our findings provide insights into H3K4-specific recognition by KDM5A as well as how chromatin context can regulate KDM5A activity and H3K4 methylation status.
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