The DNA methyltransferases, Dnmts, are the enzymes responsible for methylating DNA in mammals, which leads to gene silencing. Repression by DNA methylation is mediated partly by recruitment of the methyl-CpG-binding protein MeCP2. Recently, MeCP2 was shown to associate and facilitate histone methylation at Lys9 of H3, which is a key epigenetic modification involved in gene silencing. Here, we show that endogenous Dnmt3a associates primarily with histone H3-K9 methyltransferase activity as well as, to a lesser extent, with H3-K4 enzymatic activity. The association with enzymatic activity is mediated by the conserved PHD-like motif of Dnmt3a. The H3-K9 histone methyltransferase that binds Dnmt3a is likely the H3-K9 specific SUV39H1 enzyme since we find that it interacts both in vitro and in vivo with Dnmt3a, using its PHD-like motif. We find that SUV39H1 also binds to Dnmt1 and, consistent with these interactions, SUV39H1 can purify DNA methyltransferase activity from nuclear extracts. In addition, we show that HP1beta, a SUV39H1-interacting partner, binds directly to Dnmt1 and Dnmt3a and that native HP1beta associates with DNA methyltransferase activity. Our data show a direct connection between the enzymes responsible for DNA methylation and histone methylation. These results further substantiate the notion of a self-reinforcing repressive chromatin state through the interplay between these two global epigenetic modifications.
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