The RNA helicase Rm62 cooperates with SU(VAR)3-9 to re-silence active transcription in Drosophila melanogaster.
ABSTRACT Gene expression is highly dynamic and many genes show a wide range in expression over several orders of magnitude. This regulation is often mediated by sequence specific transcription factors. In addition, the tight packaging of DNA into chromatin can provide an additional layer of control resulting in a dynamic range of gene expression covering several orders of magnitude. During transcriptional activation, chromatin barriers have to be eliminated to allow an efficient progression of the RNA polymerase. This repressive chromatin structure has to be re-established quickly after it has been activated in order to tightly regulate gene activity. We show that the DExD/H box containing RNA helicase Rm62 is targeted to a site of rapid induction of transcription where it is responsible for an increased degree of methylation at H3K9 at the heat shock locus after removal of the heat shock stimulus. The RNA helicase interacts with the well-characterized histone methyltransferase SU(VAR)3-9 via its N-terminus, which provides a potential mechanism for the targeting of H3K9 methylation to highly regulated genes. The recruitment of SU(VAR)3-9 through interaction with a RNA helicase to a site of active transcription might be a general mechanism that allows an efficient silencing of highly regulated genes thereby enabling a cell to fine tune its gene activity over a wide range.
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 09/2006; 7(8):557-67. · 39.12 Impact Factor
Cell 03/1993; 72(3):305-8. · 32.40 Impact Factor
[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Chromatin structure imposes significant obstacles on all aspects of transcription that are mediated by RNA polymerase II. The dynamics of chromatin structure are tightly regulated through multiple mechanisms including histone modification, chromatin remodeling, histone variant incorporation, and histone eviction. In this Review, we highlight advances in our understanding of chromatin regulation and discuss how such regulation affects the binding of transcription factors as well as the initiation and elongation steps of transcription.Cell 03/2007; 128(4):707-19. · 32.40 Impact Factor
The RNA Helicase Rm62 Cooperates with SU(VAR)3-9 to
Re-Silence Active Transcription in Drosophila
Joern Boeke1., Indira Bag2., M. Janaki Ramaiah2,3, Irene Vetter1, Elisabeth Kremmer4, Manika Pal-
Bhadra2, Utpal Bhadra3, Axel Imhof1*
1Munich Center of Integrated Protein Science and Adolf-Butenandt Institute, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Munich, Germany, 2Centre for Chemical Biology,
Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, India, 3Functional Genomics and Gene Silencing Group, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India,
4Institute of Molecular Immunology, Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, Munich, Germany
Gene expression is highly dynamic and many genes show a wide range in expression over several orders of magnitude. This
regulation is often mediated by sequence specific transcription factors. In addition, the tight packaging of DNA into
chromatin can provide an additional layer of control resulting in a dynamic range of gene expression covering several
orders of magnitude. During transcriptional activation, chromatin barriers have to be eliminated to allow an efficient
progression of the RNA polymerase. This repressive chromatin structure has to be re-established quickly after it has been
activated in order to tightly regulate gene activity. We show that the DExD/H box containing RNA helicase Rm62 is targeted
to a site of rapid induction of transcription where it is responsible for an increased degree of methylation at H3K9 at the
heat shock locus after removal of the heat shock stimulus. The RNA helicase interacts with the well-characterized histone
methyltransferase SU(VAR)3-9 via its N-terminus, which provides a potential mechanism for the targeting of H3K9
methylation to highly regulated genes. The recruitment of SU(VAR)3-9 through interaction with a RNA helicase to a site of
active transcription might be a general mechanism that allows an efficient silencing of highly regulated genes thereby
enabling a cell to fine tune its gene activity over a wide range.
Citation: Boeke J, Bag I, Ramaiah MJ, Vetter I, Kremmer E, et al. (2011) The RNA Helicase Rm62 Cooperates with SU(VAR)3-9 to Re-Silence Active Transcription in
Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS ONE 6(6): e20761. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020761
Editor: Laszlo Tora, Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology, France
Received February 8, 2011; Accepted May 9, 2011; Published June 2, 2011
Copyright: ? 2011 Boeke et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: This work was funded by grants from the European Union (LSHG-CT2006-037415) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (IM23/4-3) and partly by
the Senior International Wellcome Trust Fellowships to MP-B (GAP 0158) and UB (GAP 0065). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis,
decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
* E-mail: Imhof@lmu.de
. These authors contributed equally to this work.
Gene expression is regulated at the level of initiation, elongation
and termination of transcription [1,2]. In order to modulate the
expression of a given gene, basal as well as sequence specific
transcription factors cooperate to facilitate the recruitment of the
RNA polymerase to a given promoter and regulate its activity.
Besides the mere DNA sequence of the regulatory regions, the
wrapping of DNA into chromatin heavily influences the level to
which a particular gene is transcribed [3,4]. The degree of
chromatin packaging can be modulated by histone modifying
enzymes that generate a specific modification pattern thereby
marking active and inactive genes [5,6]. Although the modification
patterns can allow a distinction between genes that are
permanently silenced and those that are actively transcribed, it is
unclear how genes that can cycle between a highly active and an
inactive state are marked. Such genes often respond to an external
signal such as a hormone or intracellular stress . The signal is
usually perceived by a specific transcription factor that associates
with a promoter via binding to a specific DNA element in the
regulatory region of the gene. Along with the transcription factor,
multiple transcriptional co-activators are recruited that can either
facilitate the binding of the basal transcriptional machinery,
modify histones , remodel nucleosomes or displace nucleosomes
from the whole genomic locus . When the signal ceases,
nucleosomes reform at the locus and the repressed state is
reconstituted. Although there is some controversy of whether or
not the formation of a nucleosomal structure is a cause or a
consequence of repression  there is a clear correlation between
the two events .
One of the best-characterized promoters that can rapidly switch
between an active and an inactive state controls the transcription
of the hsp70 gene. The promoter of the hsp70 gene adopts a well
defined chromatin structure that is hypersensitive towards DNaseI
[12,13,14] and has TBP bound . This specific promoter
architecture leads to a recruitment of RNA polymerase II even in
absence of the stimulus and the generation of a paused polymerase
that requires a stimulus to be released from the pre-initiation
complex [16,17,18,19]. A heat shock pulse then leads to a
cooperative binding of the sequence specific transcription factor
HSF1 [20,21,22] to the hsp70 promoter, which in turn results in
promoter clearance of RNA polymerase II and the subsequent
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org1June 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 6 | e20761
accumulation of hsp70 RNA. The heat shock pulse also leads to a
recruitment of histone modifying enzymes such as the H3K4
methyltransferase PAF1, which results in an increase of H3
methylated at K4 over the whole body of the gene  and histone
chaperones such as FACT that facilitate nucleosome disassembly
[23,24]. As a consequence the nucleosomes get disrupted over a
large region of the hsp70 locus  allowing transcription to occur
at a high level. This process of histone removal is dependent on the
poly ADP ribosyltransferase (PARP) and is independent of
processive transcription [9,25].
Despite this large body of knowledge with regards to hsp70
activation, little is known about the mechanisms that re-establish
the repressed state at this highly inducible gene. Transcriptionally
inactive genes are frequently marked by a methylation of H3 at
position K9. This modification is catalyzed by H3K9 specific
methyltransferases such as SU(VAR)3-9 , G9a  or
SETDB1 . Although this modification localizes predominantly
to pericentric heterochromatin, H3K9 methylation has also been
detected at euchromatic regions [29,30] and has been suggested to
be important for transcriptional activation [31,32]. However, the
activating function of H3K9me seems to be an exception from the
rule as targeted methylation of H3K9 to ectopic sites lead to the
generation of silenced chromatin . Currently one of the best-
characterized histone methyltranseferases is SU(VAR)3-9 . It
has been initially identified by a genetic screen for factors that
affect heterochromatin formation in Drosophila [34,35] and has
been subsequently identified in many higher eukaryotes . All
SU(VAR)3-9 orthologoues have a conserved domain structure
containing a chromo domain at the N-terminus and a catalytically
active C-terminal SET domain. Besides the catalytically active
SET domain, the region that resides N-terminal of the chromo-
domain of SU(VAR)3-9 also plays an important role in
modulating SU(VAR)3-9s methyltransferase activity [37,38]. We
therefore analyzed proteins that interact with the SU(VAR)3-9 N-
terminus in order to find potential regulators of SU(VAR)3-9 and
understand the mechanism of how SU(VAR)3-9 exerts its function
in eu- as well as in heterochromatin. One of the proteins we have
identified as interactor with the N-terminal tail of SU(VAR)3-9 is
the DExD/H containing RNA-helicase Rm62. Rm62 plays a role
in multiple gene regulatory processes such as alternative splicing
RNA release and subsequent export , steroid receptor
mediated activation of transcription [40,41] and RNAi mediated
silencing [42,43]. We show that Rm62 interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
N-terminal region in vitro as well as in vivo. As Rm62 has been
reported as a mediator of hsp70 transcriptional shut down, we also
investigated the function of SU(VAR)3-9 in this process and find a
similar role like Rm62. We observe an increase in H3K9
methylation during transcriptional shut down on the heat shock
loci on polytene chromosomes that is dependent on the presence
of Rm62 suggesting a functional role of the RNA helicase on
recruiting a methyltransferase.
Materials and Methods
Affinity purifiction of Proteins binding to the SU(VAR)3-9
GST and GST SU(VAR)3-9 NT (aa 1–152) were expressed in
E. coli and individually bound to GSTrap FF columns (GE
Healthcare). The columns A (GST) and B (GST SU(VAR)3-9 NT)
were connected and a Drosophila nuclear extract from 0–12 hours
embryos (NE) was loaded. After a washing step (200 mM NaCl,
20 mM Tris-HCl, (pH 8.0), 1 mM EDTA, 0.5% Nonidet P-40),
the columns A and B were disconnected followed by step elution
(250, 500 and 750 mM) of the bound proteins on a A¨KTA-FPLC
system (GE Healthcare). Fractions were analyzed for bound
proteins by fractionation on SDS-polyacrylamide gel electropho-
resis followed by silver or Coomassie staining. Stained protein
bands were cut out and subjected to mass spectrometry.
Generation of Rm62 specific rat monoclonal antibodies
Rm62 was expressed in E.coli as an N-terminal fusion protein
with the Glutathion-S-Tranferase (GST) (cloning details are
available on request). Immunization was performed in the
‘‘Service Unit Monoclonal antibodies’’ at the Helmholtz Zentrum
Mu ¨nchen, using purified GST-Rm62. A ELISA screen led to
thirthy-two (GST negative, Rm62 positive) hybridoma superna-
tants, which were re-screened for their specificity in western blots
and immunoprecipitations. The two antibodies used in the present
study were either of IgG1 (1B8) or of IgG2c (1E7) subtype.
GST pull-down of in vitro translated proteins
GST and GST fusion proteins were expressed in E. coli. GST
pull-downs were carried out essentially as described earlier .
Bacteria were induced with 0.2 mM isopropyl-D-thiogalactopyr-
anoside (IPTG) for 3 h at 37uC. Recombinant proteins were
purified with glutathione-sepharose beads (GE Healthcare) and
analyzed by SDS-PAGE to normalize protein amounts. Equiva-
lent amounts of GST fusion proteins were incubated with [35S]-
methionine-labeled proteins, produced by the T7/T3 TNT-
coupled transcription/translation system (Promega) in 200 ml of
binding buffer (100 mM NaCl, 20 mM Tris-HCl (pH 8.0), 1 mM
EDTA, 0.5% Nonidet P-40, 5 mg of ethidium bromide, 100 mg of
bovine serum albumin (BSA)). After 0.5 h of incubation at room
temperature, the beads were washed 5 times with 1 ml of binding
buffer without ethidium bromide and BSA. The bound proteins
were eluted with SDS sample buffer, separated by SDS-PAGE,
and visualized by autoradiography.
Cell culture and Immunoprecipitation
Drosophila Schneider cells (SL2), stably transfected with an
expression plasmid coding for a haemaglutinin-(HA-) tagged
version of SU(VAR)3-9 under control of a metallothionein
promoter (cloning details are available on request), were grown
in Schneider’s Drosophila medium (Gibco) +10% fetal calf serum
at 26uC. 12 hours before harvesting expression of HA-SU(VAR)3-
9 was induced by the addition of 0.2 mM CuSO4to the media.
Nuclear extracts (NE) of these cells were subjected to immuno-
precipitations using the a-Rm62 rat monoclonal antibody 1E7
(monoclonal rat antibody, IgG2c subtype): equal amounts of NE
weres incubated for three hours with the 1E7 antibody or with an
unspecific antibody of the same isotype (IgG2c), respectively. For
immunoprecipitation 20 ml of a 1:1 mixture of Protein A/G
Sepharose (GE Healthcare) was added to the extracts and
incubated for 3 hours at 4uC. After washing the Protein A/G
beads with BC-300 (300 mM NaCl, 25 mM HEPES pH 7.6,
1 mM MgCl2, 0.5 mM EDTA, 0.5 mM EGTA, 10% Glycerol)
including 0.1% NP-40, bound proteins were eluted by the addition
of SDS sample buffer and subjected to SDS-gelelectrophoresis
followed by western blot using HA-tag (Roche), SU(VAR)3-9
(Su3D9, IgG1 subtype) and Rm62 specific antibodies (1B8,
monoclonal rat antibody, IgG1 subtype).
Reverse Transcription (RT) and Realtime PCR
Total cellular RNA from SL2 cells of was isolated using the
RNeasy Mini Kit (Qiagen). Isolated RNA was cleaned up by
DNase treatment with the RNase-Free DNase Set (Qiagen) to
avoid possible DNA contaminants. 100 ng of RNA were taken for
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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the first strand cDNA synthesis using M-MuLV Reverse
Transcriptase (New England Biolabs) and gene specific primers
for hsp70 and U6 snRNA (internal control). Q-PCR was carried
out using the ABI PRISM 7000 Sequence detection system
(Applied Biosystems). SYBR Green 26PCR Master Mix (Applied
Biosystems) was used according to the manufacturer’s directions.
To control the efficiency of the knockdown, total cellular RNA
from the RNAi treated SL2 cells were isolated using the RNeasy
PLUS Mini Kit (Qiagen), 6 days after RNAi treatment. 1 mg of
total RNA were taken for the first strand cDNA synthesis using M-
MuLV Reverse Transcriptase (New England Biolabs) and gene
specific primers for Su(var)3-9 and Rm62, respectively. 10% of the
RT reaction was used for standard PCR with exon specific primer
pairs (Su(var)3-9RT_for: 59-CGGTCATGTGGCTCACGGCA
A-39, Su(var)3-9RT_rev: 59-GGCGGCGGAATCGGCTAT GT
Rm62RT_rev: 59-GCGGATGA AGCGCACCAGGT-39) fol-
lowed by agarose gel electrophoresis. The knock downs had no
effect on cell division and growth (Figure S1).
For the analysis of hsp70 RNA in flies, total cellular RNA from
larvae of different Drosophila stocks was isolated using Trizol
(Invitrogen). RNA was purified by a RNeasy Mini Kit (Qiagen).
Three mg of RNA were used for the first strand cDNA synthesis
using SuperScriptTMfirst-strand synthesis system for RT-PCR
(Invitrogen). The cDNA was further used for the quantification of
gene expression by Real-Time PCR by ABI 7500 Instrument.
Chromatin-Immunoprecipitation (ChIP) from Drosophila
Drosophila wildtype and Rm62 mutant (CBO2119/LIP-F) larvae
were grown in standard food media. Approximately 200–300 mg
of well-fed third instar larvae was used for each reaction. Larvae
were heat shock treated at 37uC for 45 min and were sacrificed
immediately. For the recovery after heat shock, larvae were
further cultured in normal temp (25uC) for another three hours.
All larvae were resuspended in 5 ml of buffer A1 (60 mM KCl,
15 mM NaCl, 4 mM MgCl2, 15 mM HEPES (pH7.6), 0.5%
Triton X-100, 0.5 mM DTT, 10 mM sodium butyrate, EDTA-
free complete protease inhibitor cocktail (Roche) and crosslinked
with 1.8% formaldehyde at room temperature. To stop the cross
linking reaction, 2.5 M glycine was added to a final concentration
of 225 mM, mixed thoroughly and further incubated for 5 min
on ice. The cross-linked larvae ware resuspended in 2.5 ml of
lysis buffer (140 mM NaCl, 15 mM HEPES pH 7.6, 1 mM
EDTA, 0.5 mM EGTA, 1% Triton X-100, 0.5 mM DTT, 0.1%
sodium deoxycholate, 0.05% SDS, 10 mM sodium butyrate,
EDTA-free complete protease inhibitor cocktail (Roche) 0.1%
SDS and 0.5% N-lauroylsarcosine and incubated for 10 min at
4uC. Chromatin was sheared in a Bioruptor (Diagenode) to
achieve chromatin fragments of an average length from 300–
500 bp. The sonicated chromatin was diluted with ChIP dilution
buffer (0.01% SDS, 1.1% Triton-X100, 1.2 mM EDTA,
16.7 mM Tris-HCl pH 8.1, 167 mM NaCl, 16 EDTA free
protease inhibitors cocktail (Roche)) and pre-cleared with Protein
A agarose/salmon sperm DNA beads (Millipore) for 1 hour at
4uC. About 200 mg of precleared chromatin was incubated with
25 ml of anti-Rm62 (1E7), anti-H3K9me2 (Upstate 07-212) and
anti-SU(VAR)3-9 (SU3D9) overnight prior to the addition of a
protein A Sepharose beads. Immunoprecipitated complexes were
washed sequentially with low salt buffer (0.1% SDS, 1% Triton
X100, 2 mM EDTA, 20 mM Tris-HCl pH8.1, 150 mM NaCl),
high salt buffer (0.1% SDS, 1% Triton –X100, 2 mM EDTA,
20 mM Tris-HCl pH8.1, 500 mM NaCl), LiCl wash buffer
(0.25 M LiCl, 1% NP-40, 1% Desoxycholate, 1 mM EDTA,
10 mM Tris-HCl pH8.1) and 10 mM Tris-HCl, 1 mM EDTA
pH8 (2 times). The bound DNA was eluted with elution buffer
(1% SDS, 0.1 M Na2HCO3) and cross links removed for 6 hrs at
65uC. After treatment with RNase A (Sigma) and Proteinase K
(Sigma), DNA was purified with Nucleospin Extract II DNA
purification columns according to manufacturer’s instructions
(Macharey Nagel). The sample was amplified following a
standard PCR protocol using primers covering the hsp70
promoter (forward: 59-TGCCAGAAAGAAAACTCGAGAAA,
reverse: 59-GACAGAGTGAGAGAG CAATAGTACAGAGA).
The ratios of amplified immunoprecipitated DNA and DNA
amplified from 5% of the input material were calculated from
triplicate gels by densitometry.
Immunostaining of polytene chromosomes
Salivary glands of third Instar larvae were dissected and fixed in
4% Para formaldehyde. The polytene chromosomes were further
processed and immunostained with antibodies as described earlier
. Chromosomes were probed with anti Rm62 antibodies at a
dilution 1:30, Cy3-conjugated goat anti rat secondary antibodies
were used for Rm62 at a standard 1:200 dilution. For H3K9me2
staining, chromosomes were immunostained with anti-H3K9me2
antibodies (1:25) and re-probed with Cy5 conjugated goat anti-
rabbit antibodies at a 1: 200 dilution. The chromosomes were
mounted with vecta-shield mounting media with Propidium
Iodide and examined in Olympus FV1000 confocal microscope
using a 660 water immersion lens.
SU(VAR)3-9 interacts with a component of the RNAi
As the N-terminus of SU(VAR)3-9 plays an important
functional role [35,37,38,46], we expressed the N-terminal
domain of SU(VAR)3-9 as a GST fusion protein (Figure 1A)
and used it as an affinity resin to purify interacting partners of
SU(VAR)3-9. Among other proteins , we have identified the
DExD/H box containing RNA helicase Rm62 as a specific
interactor with SU(VAR)3-9 (Figure 1B). In order to confirm the
interaction in vivo we generated specific monoclonal antibodies
recognizing Rm62 (Figure 1C) and used it to immunoprecipitate
a putative Rm62 complex. As the concentration of endogenous
SU(VAR)3-9 are so low that the protein is difficult to detect, we
performed the immunoprecipitation in a cell line that expressed
HA-tagged SU(VAR)3-9 under a copper inducible promoter. In
this experiment we could detect SU(VAR)3-9 co-immunoprecip-
itating with Rm62 using a Rm62 specific antibody but not with a
control antibody (Figure 1D). As the observed interaction could
have been mediated by intermediary factors we checked if we
could observe the interaction in vitro by mixing GST fusion
proteins of Rm62 and SU(VAR)3-9 (Figure 2) with various
deletion mutants of Rm62 or SU(VAR)3-9 translated in vitro. As
expected from the pull down experiments shown in Figure 1B, N-
terminal truncations of SU(VAR)3-9 abolished its interaction
with immobilized recombinant GST-Rm62 protein whereas C-
terminal truncations can still interact (Figure 2B). This direct
interaction is mediated by the first 141 amino acids of Rm62,
which do not contain the helicase domain (Figure 2C). The same
domain is also responsible for the dimerisation of Rm62
suggesting that it may be an important region for regulating this
protein-protein interaction. However, a more detailed analysis
would be required to determine the molecular function of this
region of Rm62.
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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Figure 1. Identification of the DEAD-box RNA helicase Rm62 as an interaction partner of SU(VAR)3-9. (A) Schematic representation of
the purification scheme used (B) Rm62 binds to the SU(VAR)3-9 N-terminus. left panel: Silverstain of a SDS-polyacrylamide gel loaded with salt eluted
fractions from column A right panel: Coomassie staining SDS-polyacrylamide gel loaded with salt eluted fractions from column B. The band marked
with the asterisk (*) was identified as Rm62 via mass-spectrometry. (C) The rat monoclonal antibodies 1B8 and 1E7 are specific for Rm62. Left: Western
Blot analysis of recombinant and endogenous Rm62 probed with 1B8 or 1E7. Lane 1: purified recombinant GST-Rm62. Lane 2: 5 ml of a nuclear extract
(NE) from Drosophila embryos (0–12 h a.e.l.). Right: Decreasing amounts of NE (lane 1–4: 10 ml, 5 ml, 2.5 ml, 1 ml) were separated by SDS-PAGE and
subjected to Western Blot analysis using 1B8. (D) SU(VAR)3-9 copurifies with Rm62 in immunoprecipitations using the Rm62 specific antibody 1E7. NE
of copper induced (0.2 mM) HA-SU(VAR)3-9 expressing cells were used for co-immunoprcipitation (Co-IP) experiments. NEs were incubated with 1E7
antibody and Rm62 was purified by the addition of Protein A/G sepharose beads (GE Healthcare). Bound proteins were eluted with SDS sample buffer
and subjected to gel electrophoresis followed by western blotting (Input: 5% of the amount of NE used for the Co-IP, beads: unspecific control using
either an antibody of the same isotype (isotype control, IgG2c) Rm62-IP (1E7): Co-IP with the 1E7.
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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SU(VAR)3-9 and Rm62 regulate hsp70 transcriptional
As we see an interaction between Rm62 and SU(VAR)3-9 we
wondered whether they may also regulate similar genes. Rm62 has
been shown to be involved is the shut down of the hsp70 gene after
heat shock. Therefore, we subjected SL2 cells to a 30 minute heat
shock at 37uC and determined the relative levels of hsp70 RNA
after recovery from heat shock by quantitative RT-PCR
(Figure 3B). In accordance to what has been shown before 
we see a significant delay in the transcriptional shut down of hsp70
transcription in cells where Rm62 has been removed by RNAi
(Figures 3A, bottom panel and B). When we knock down Su(var)3-
9 transcription (Figure 3A, top panel), we observe a similar effect
(Figure 3B) suggesting that SU(VAR)3-9 also has a role in re-
silencing the hsp70 gene. The increased hsp70 transcription is not
due to an increased heat shock response, as we do not detect
significant changes in the amount of hsp70 RNA immediately after
heat shock (Figure 3B). We next wondered whether we would see
the same effect of Rm62 and SU(VAR)3-9 on hsp70 transcription
in Drosophila larvae. To do this, we analyzed the recovery of
hsp70 transcription from heat shock in flies that carry a mutation
in Rm62 or Su(var)3-9 (Figure 3C). Similar to what we see in SL2
cells, we also observe an increased hsp70 transcription after 3 hrs
of recovery in the mutant flies when compared to wildtype. In the
Figure 2. Mapping of the interaction domain between SU(VAR)3-9 and Rm62. (A) Schematic display of the in vitro translated SU(VAR)3-9
proteins. (B) The various in vitro translated SU(VAR)3-9 constructs were incubated with GST (GST) or a GST-Rm62 fusion protein to map the
interaction domain. (C) In a reciprocal experiment GST-Rm62 and a GST-SU(VAR)3-9 containing only the 152 N-terminal amino acids were used as
baits for in vitro translated Rm62.
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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mutant flies we find an increased hsp70 expression even before
heat shock, suggesting that the prolonged lack of SU(VAR)3-9 or
Rm62 leads to a relaxed chromatin structure of the normally
tightly regulated hsp70 locus in the corresponding mutant fly
strains (Figure 3C).
We next wanted to know if Rm62 is indeed recruited to the
hsp70 gene in vivo and if this recruitment is required for the
methylation of H3K9 following re-silencing. To do this, we
incubated third instar larvae of wildtype or mutant flies for
45 minutes at 37uC. This heat shock resulted in puffing of the
three heat shock loci 87A, 87C and 93C. Concomitantly with the
heat shock Rm62 is recruited to the heat shock loci and slowly
dissociates from the locus during recovery (Figure 4A). Consistent
with the hypothesis that Rm62 recruits a H3K9 methyltransferase
we observe a re-establishment of the H3K9me2 signal when hsp70
transcription ceases (Figure 4B). The kinetics of H3K9me2 re-
Figure 3. Prolonged RNA production from the hsp70 locus after reduction of SU(VAR)3-9 or Rm62. (A) RNAi against SU(VAR)3-9 and/or
Rm62 specifically eliminates the respective proteins as well as it’s mRNA from SL2 whole cell extract (WCE). SL2 cells were transfected with specific
double stranded RNAs against SU(VAR)3-9, Rm62 or GST (control). WCEs and total RNA were prepared 6 days after transfection. Left: Proteins were
analyzed by SDS-PAGE followed by western blotting with the indicated antibodies (GST: control RNAi, SU(VAR)3-9: RNAi against Su(var)3-9, Rm62:
RNAi against Rm62, SU(VAR)3-9/Rm62: double knockdown of Su(var)3-9 and Rm62). Right: 1 mg oft total RNA, was reverse transcribed (SuperscriptTM,
Reverse Transcriptase, Invitrogen) using gene specific primers for Su(var)3-9 or Rm62, respectively. 10% of the obtained cDNA were analyzed by
standard PCR using specific primers for Su(var)3-9 or Rm62, and separated by agarose gel electrophoresis. To discriminate between genomic and
cDNA, we used intron spanning primer pairs in the PCR reaction. (B) Quantitative RT-PCR of the hsp70 mRNA from SL2 cells before (no HS), after heat
shock (30 min HS) and a 180 min of recovery phase (+180 min recovery). SL2 cells, cultured under standard conditions, were subjected to RNAi
against GST (control), Su(var)3-9 or Rm62. After 6 days of culturing, cells were either not treated (no HS) or treated with a heat shock (30 min HS)
followed by a recovery for 180 min at 26uC (+180 min recovery), respectively. RNA from these cells was isolated, reverse transcribed and analyzed by
quantitative real time PCR. Bars represent relative hsp70 RNA expression levels (in percent) normalized to an internal control (U6 snRNA), which does
not respond to heat shock. Percent expression was calculated to the maximal amount of RNA measured after heat shock. The inlet graph shows an
enlargement of the calculated values after 180 min recovery upon heat shock. The observed difference between the SU(VAR)3-9/GST and Rm62/GST
is significant as calculated with an unpaired two sided Student’s t-test (p=0.041 and p=0.014, respectively). Error bars indicate the standard
deviation of two replicates. (C) Relative expression of hsp70 RNA from wild type (WT) Rm62 (CBO2119/LipF) and Su(var)3-9 heteroalleic flies (Su(var)3-
91/Su(var)3-92) before (no HS) or after heat shock (30 min HS) followed by 120 min of recovery (+120 min recovery). RNAs were extracted from the
flies either not treated or treated with a heat impulse and ‘‘recovered’’ for 120 min at 25uC and further subjected to quantitative real time PCR. Bars
represent relative hsp70 RNA expression levels (in percent) normalized to an internal control (18S rRNA), which has a minimal effect on heat shock.
The observed difference between Su(var)3-9 mutant and Rm62 mutants compared to wildtype flies is significant as calculated with an unpaired two
sided Student’s t-test (p=0.047 and p=0.003, respectively). Error bars indicate the standard deviation of three replicates.
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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appearance are much slower than the recruitment of Rm62, which
could either reflect the dynamics of histone molecules after heat
shock or the presence of a demethylase immediately after heat
shock. In flies that carry a null mutation of Rm62 (lipF) and fail to
fully shut down hsp70 transcription  (Figure 3C), the histones
that reassemble on the heat shock loci have a lower degree of
H3K9 methylation suggesting that Rm62 is indeed responsible for
the targeting of a H3K9 specific methyltransferase (Figure 4B,
right panel). In order to get a better picture of the recruitment of
Rm62 and SU(VAR)3-9 to the hsp70 locus, we performed
chromatin immunoprecipitations of the hsp70 promoter region
using antibodies against Rm62, SU(VAR)3-9 and H3K9me2 in
wildtype or Rm62 mutant flies (Figure 5). Comparable to what we
observe in polytene chromosomes, Rm62 is recruited to the hsp70
promoter immediately after heat shock and is no longer
crosslinked to the promoter after a 3 hr recovery phase. Likewise,
SU(VAR)3-9’s binding to the promoter is substantially increased
after heat shock. The recruitment of SU(VAR)3-9 is dependent on
the presence of Rm62 as the binding is decreased in the Rm62
mutant flies (Figure 5, dark bars). In the absence of any heat shock
and after the promoter recovered from heat shock the histones
carry a methylation at H3K9, which is dependent on the presence
of Rm62 (Figure 5). Interestingly, despite a clear enrichment of the
methylating enzyme, H3K9me2 is reduced at the hsp70 promoter
immediately after heat shock wildtype flies, which is likely due to
the complete removal of histones after heat shock .
The recruitment of histone methylation by Rm62 is not
restricted to the heat shock loci as we observe a reduction of
H3K9me2 levels at many euchromatic binding sites in hetero-
allelic larvae carrying two mutant Rm62 alleles (Figure 6A). We do
not see a reduction of Rm62 binding to its sites in Su(var)3-9
heteroallelic larvae (Figure 6B) suggesting that Rm62 is required
for SU(VAR)3-9 binding but not vice versa.
We have identified Rm62 as an interactor with the N-terminus
of SU(VAR)3-9. Interestingly, this interaction domain is shared
between the SU(VAR)3-9 and eIF2c  and could therefore
mediate the interaction between Rm62 and both proteins. We
focused our studies on the analysis of the nuclear interaction of
Rm62 and SU(VAR)3-9 as it seems to be important for the
Figure 4. Recruitment of Rm62 and histone H3K9me2 proteins on polytene chromosomes and heat shock puffs. (A) The larvae were
incubated at 37uC for 45 min for immediate heat shock (0 hr recovery time) and subsequently transferred to normal culture temperature (25uC).
Larvae were dissected at different time points (1 to 6 hr recovery time). Non heat shocked (NH) larvae were used as controls. Immunostaining of a
part of chromosome 3 covering 3 heat shock puffs (87A, 87C and 93C, using the nomenclature of ) with Rm62 Abs (1B8) (A) or H3K9me2
antibodies (blue) (B) from the wild type Canton S larvae before and after heat treatment (37uC at 45 min) showing endogenous H3K9me2 bindings.
The difference in accumulation of H3K9me2 at the heat shock puffs was visualized by the protein signals in blue (arrow head).
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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efficient shut down of highly activated genes such the hsp70. In
accordance with the previously described role of histone
modifications at the heat shock locus , we observe a strong
H3K9 methylation at the hsp70 gene before heat shock activation,
which disappears after heat shock and slowly reappears when cells
recover from heat shock. This methylation is highly dependent on
the presence of Rm62 as it is strongly reduced in Rm62 mutant fly
strains. Rm62 mutation not only leads to less H3K9 methylation
at the heat shock loci but also leads to a global reduction of the
H3K9me2 mark in euchromatin. This suggests a widespread
mechanism of methyltransferase recruitment mediated by the
interaction between Rm62 and SU(VAR)3-9.
Histone modifications regulate gene activation and
repression at the hsp70 locus
Histone modifications play a crucial role in regulating gene
expression. The hsp70 locus provides an excellent model promoter
for rapidly switching between the on and the off state of
transcription and it has been shown to be regulated at multiple
levels including histone modification [8,49]. One of the factors
that get recruited to the heat shock promoter immediately after
activation is the Rm62, which we identified as an interactor with
the histone methyltransferase SU(VAR)3-9. Despite being recruit-
ed immediately after heat shock, Rm62 plays a role in
transcriptional shut down after removal of the heat shock .
It has been suggested that the RNA helicase activity is required for
the efficient removal of the RNA from its site of transcription,
which in turn is important for the resilencing of the gene .
However, a more direct role in the generation of the repressed
state could not be excluded. As we observe a strong, Rm62
dependent, recruitment of SU(VAR)3-9 to the promoter after heat
shock, which is important for the reestablishment of H3K9
methylated chromatin, we propose that the interaction between
the two proteins contributes to the regeneration of a repressive
chromatin structure after heat shock. Buszczak and colleagues
observe a prolonged phosphorylation of H3S10 at the hsp70 locus
in flies that carry a mutation in Rm62 , which may very well
be due to a failure of recruiting SU(VAR)3-9 and H3K9
methylation in absence of Rm62. The phosphorylation of
H3S10 is severely impaired when the neighboring residue
(H3K9) is methylated by SU(VAR)3-9 in vitro  and in vivo
. The recruitment of a H3K9 methyltransferase to the hsp70
gene after heat shock may therefore prevent an efficient
phosphorylation of H3S10 thereby favoring the reestablishment
of a repressed chromatin structure. At the same time could the
increased recruitment of a H3S10 kinase prevent a premature
methylation of K9 via the recruited methyltransferases, which may
explain the striking kinetic difference we observe between the
binding of SU(VAR)3-9 and the accumulation of H3K9
methylated histones (Figure 4 and 5). Our findings may therefore
provide another example of a phospho-methyl switch  where a
strong interdependence of histone methylation and histone
Figure 5. Binding of Rm62, SU(VAR)3-9 and H3K9me2 before, during and after heat shock. Chromatin immunoprecipitation comparing
the binding of Rm62, SU(VAR)3-9 and H3me2K9 on the hsp70 promoter was assayed in third instar larvae of wild type (white bars) and heteroallelic
Rm62 (CBO2119/Lip F) mutant strains (dark bars) either without heat shock (no HS), heat incubation of larvae at 37uC for 45 min (HS) and 3 hrs after
heat treatment (recovery) . The enrichment of proteins for each amplicon of the hsp70 locus was measured relative to the input material. The relative
ratios from three independent experiments were depicted as an individual bar. For quantitation, the bands were analyzed using the Odyssey Imaging
System (LI-COR Biosciences) system and expressed of percent of input DNA. Error bars indicate the standard deviation of three biological replicates.
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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phosphorylation on adjacent residues is observed. Alternatively,
the lack of histone methylation after heat shock that is seen by
immunofluorescence and by ChIP could be due to the fact that
histones are completely removed after heat shock and are only
reassembled during recovery. In this case the recruitment of
SU(VAR)3-9 would lead to an increased local concentration of the
methyltransferase at the site of the promoter, which could (re-
)methylate the ejected histones leading to the regeneration of a
repressed state after heat shock (Figure 7). This may in fact also
explain the seemingly paradoxical effect of HP1 localisation at
heat shock puffs . The binding data could also suggest that the
recruitment of SU(VAR)3-9 is in fact important for gene activation
as we find it to bind to the promoter immediately after the
induction of transcription. However, we think this is unlikely as we
only observe an effect of SU(VAR)3-9 and Rm62 removal on the
shut down of hsp70 transcription but not on it’s induction
The role of RNA in hsp70 regulation
An alternative explanation for the apparent discrepancy
between SU(VAR)3-9 binding and H3K9 methylation could be
the need for an additional signal for the enzyme to become active.
Such a signal could be an external signal such as a posttransla-
tional modification or an internal signal such as the RNA
transcribed from the hsp70 locus itself. Immediately after heat
shock a short burst of small RNAs can be detected that are
released from the heat shock locus . Considering the fact that
Rm62 also plays a role in RNAi mediated silencing , this pulse
of small RNAs might in fact be the cause for the heat shock
dependent recruitment of Rm62 to the hsp70 locus that we
observe. Our data suggest that SU(VAR)3-9 is then recruited to
the hsp70 locus via protein-protein interactions where it
methylates the histones that are assembled onto the promoter
during repression. However, we have not tested the possibility that
the RNA stimulates the activity of SU(VAR)3-9, which could also
contribute to the delayed histone methylation.
Finally we cannot exclude that, in addition to SU(VAR)3-9, a
demethylase is recruited to the hsp70 locus, which removes the
histone methylation from the promoter bound histones. Indeed,
the jmjC family member dUTX, which contains a H3K27 specific
demthylase associates with the elongating RNA polII enzyme and
is recruited to the hsp70 locus after heat shock . It is very likely
that multiple redundant mechanisms play a role in the re-silencing
of the hsp70 genes after heat shock with all the possibilities
discussed above being involved. In light of our novel finding of a
functional interaction between SU(VAR)3-9 and Rm62 it will be
Figure 6. Global effect of Rm62 on H3K9me2. (A) Immunostaining of polytene chromosomes of third instar wildtype and heteroalleleic Rm62
(CBO2119/LipF) mutant larvae with Rm62 (green) and H3K9me2 antibodies (blue). The left panel shows a merge of the signals of an anti Rm62 and an
anti H3K9me2 staining showing a large portion of costaining. Inserts show an enlargement of the heat shock loci on chromosome 3. The
chromosomes were counterstained with PI (red) Scale 210 mm. (B) Immunostaining of polytene chromosomes of third instar Su(var)3-9 mutant
larvae (Su(var)3-91/Su(var)3-92) with Rm62 antibodies (green) show no disturbance of Rm62 binding. The chromosomes were counterstained with PI
(red) Scale 210 mm.
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interesting to investigate whether this interaction my also provide a
mechanistic link between the shut down of highly active genes and
the silencing of repetitive DNA elements via the generation of
short non translated transcripts that may help in recruiting a
histone methyltransferase. Similar mechanisms have been shown
to operate in S. pombe [54,55] but were so far not identified in
effect cell division. Drosophila SL2 cells were treated with
specific dsRNA against Su(var)3-9 (%), Rm62 (m) or a
combination of both ()). dsRNA against Glutathion-S-Transfer-
ase (GST; %) served as an internal control. At the day of RNAi
Knockdown of Su(var)3-9 and Rm62 does not
Figure 7. Model for SU(VAR)3-9/Rm62 action at the hsp70-locus. (A) Under non-heat shock conditions the hsp70 gene is silenced, but a
paused PolII (pPolII) is bound to the promoter and small, kryptic RNAs originate from the transcription start site. (B) Early heat shock response: upon
heat shock, heat shock factor 1 (HSF) is recruited to the hsp70 promoter, resulting in PolII promoter release and conversion of paused to elongating
Pol II (ePolII), leading to the massive generation of hsp70 RNA. On the chromatin level this state is characterised by histone methylation (H3K4) and
subsequent histone depletion. We find that the heat shock also leads to a recruitment of Rm62 and SU(VAR)3-9 to the hsp70 locus in a RM62
dependent manner. Late heat shock response: when the heat shock trigger ceases, reassembling histones get methylated by SU(VAR)3-9 that is
already bound. As a consequence of chromatin reassembly, transcription re-initiation and hsp70-RNA production are strongly diminished. (C) The
chromatin state in the recovery or refractory phase is characterised by a high level of H3K9 methylation and a complete silencing of hsp70
transcription. SU(VAR)3-9 and Rm62 are released and the gene locus which is prone for another activation cycle.
Rm62 Interacts with SU(VAR)3-9
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treatment (day 0), cells (1,256106) were seeded in Schneider’s
Drosophila medium supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum and
incubated at 26uC. Cell numbers were checked three and six days
after RNAi treatment.
We would like to thank G. Reuter, A. Spradling and J. Birchler for fly lines
and antibodies. We are grateful to L. Israel for expert technical assistance
and to all members of the Imhof and Bhadra groups for critical reading of
the manuscript and helpful comments.
Conceived and designed the experiments: UB MP-B AI. Performed the
experiments: JB IB MJR IV EK. Analyzed the data: AI JB UB.
Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: EK. Wrote the paper: AI.
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