Histone H3 acetylation and H3 K4 methylation define distinct chromatin regions permissive for transgene expression

Chunhong Yan, Douglas D. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

113 Scopus citations


Histone modifications are associated with distinct transcription states and serve as heritable epigenetic markers for chromatin structure and function. While H3 K9 methylation defines condensed heterochromatin that is able to silence a nearby gene, how gene silencing within euchromatin regions is achieved remains elusive. We report here that histone H3 K4 methylation or K9/K14 acetylation defines distinct chromatin regions permissive or nonpermissive for transgene expression. A permissive chromatin region is enriched in H3 K4 methylation and H3 acetylation, while a nonpermissive region is poor in or depleted of these two histone modifications. The histone modification states of the permissive chromatin can spread to transgenic promoters. However, de novo histone H3 acetylation and H3 K4 methylation at a transgenic promoter in a nonpermissive chromatin region are stochastic, leading to variegated transgene expression. Moreover, nonpermissive chromatin progressively silences a transgene, an event that is accompanied by the reduction of H3 K4 methylation and H3 acetylation levels at the transgenic promoter. These repressive effects of nonpermissive chromatin cannot be completely countered by strong transcription activators, indicating the dominance of the chromatin effects. We therefore propose a model in which histone H3 acetylation and H3 K4 methylation localized to discrete sites in the mammalian genome mark distinct chromatin functions that dictate transgene expression or silencing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6357-6371
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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