Histone demethylase JHDM2A is critical for Tnp1 and Prm1 transcription and spermatogenesis.
Recent studies indicate that, similar to other covalent modifications, histone lysine methylation is subject to enzyme-catalysed reversion. So far, LSD1 (also known as AOF2) and the jumonji C (JmjC)-domain-containing proteins have been shown to possess histone demethylase activity. LSD1 catalyses removal of H3K4me2/H3K4me1 through a flavin-adenine-dinucleotide-dependent oxidation reaction. In contrast, JmjC-domain-containing proteins remove methyl groups from histones through a hydroxylation reaction that requires alpha-ketoglutarate and Fe(II) as cofactors. Although an increasing number of histone demethylases have been identified and biochemically characterized, their biological functions, particularly in the context of an animal model, are poorly characterized. Here we use a loss-of-function approach to demonstrate that the mouse H3K9me2/1-specific demethylase JHDM2A (JmjC-domain-containing histone demethylase 2A, also known as JMJD1A) is essential for spermatogenesis. We show that Jhdm2a-deficient mice exhibit post-meiotic chromatin condensation defects, and that JHDM2A directly binds to and controls the expression of transition nuclear protein 1 (Tnp1) and protamine 1 (Prm1) genes, the products of which are required for packaging and condensation of sperm chromatin. Thus, our work uncovers a role for JHDM2A in spermatogenesis and reveals transition nuclear protein and protamine genes as direct targets of JHDM2A.