ATRX Plays a Key Role in Maintaining Silencing at Interstitial Heterochromatic Loci and Imprinted Genes.
Voon HPJ., Hughes JR., Rode C., De La Rosa-Velázquez IA., Jenuwein T., Feil R., Higgs DR., Gibbons RJ.
Histone H3.3 is a replication-independent histone variant, which replaces histones that are turned over throughout the entire cell cycle. H3.3 deposition at euchromatin is dependent on HIRA, whereas ATRX/Daxx deposits H3.3 at pericentric heterochromatin and telomeres. The role of H3.3 at heterochromatic regions is unknown, but mutations in the ATRX/Daxx/H3.3 pathway are linked to aberrant telomere lengthening in certain cancers. In this study, we show that ATRX-dependent deposition of H3.3 is not limited to pericentric heterochromatin and telomeres but also occurs at heterochromatic sites throughout the genome. Notably, ATRX/H3.3 specifically localizes to silenced imprinted alleles in mouse ESCs. ATRX KO cells failed to deposit H3.3 at these sites, leading to loss of the H3K9me3 heterochromatin modification, loss of repression, and aberrant allelic expression. We propose a model whereby ATRX-dependent deposition of H3.3 into heterochromatin is normally required to maintain the memory of silencing at imprinted loci.