Ubiquitination of histone H2B regulates H3 methylation and gene silencing in yeast.
In eukaryotes, the DNA of the genome is packaged with histone proteins to form nucleosomal filaments, which are, in turn, folded into a series of less well understood chromatin structures. Post-translational modifications of histone tail domains modulate chromatin structure and gene expression. Of these, histone ubiquitination is poorly understood. Here we show that the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme Rad6 (Ubc2) mediates methylation of histone H3 at lysine 4 (Lys 4) through ubiquitination of H2B at Lys 123 in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Moreover, H3 (Lys 4) methylation is abolished in the H2B-K123R mutant, whereas H3-K4R retains H2B (Lys 123) ubiquitination. These data indicate a unidirectional regulatory pathway in which ubiquitination of H2B (Lys 123) is a prerequisite for H3 (Lys 4) methylation. We also show that an H2B-K123R mutation perturbs silencing at the telomere, providing functional links between Rad6-mediated H2B (Lys 123) ubiquitination, Set1-mediated H3 (Lys 4) methylation, and transcriptional silencing. Thus, these data reveal a pathway leading to gene regulation through concerted histone modifications on distinct histone tails. We refer to this as 'trans-tail' regulation of histone modification, a stated prediction of the histone code hypothesis.