The Gcn5 bromodomain of the SAGA complex facilitates cooperative and cross-tail acetylation of nucleosomes.
Bromodomains are acetyl lysine binding modules found in many complexes that regulate gene transcription. In budding yeast, the coactivator complex SAGA (Spt-Ada-Gcn5-acetyl-transferase) predominantly facilitates transcription of stress-activated genes and requires the bromodomain of the Gcn5 subunit for full activation of a number of these genes. This bromodomain has previously been shown to promote retention of the complex to H3 and H4 acetylated nucleosomes. Because the SAGA complex mediates histone H3 acetylation, we sought to determine to what extent the Gcn5 bromodomain directly modulates histone acetylation activity. Kinetic analysis of SAGA-mediated acetylation of nucleosomal substrates reveals that this bromodomain: 1) is required for the cooperative acetylation of nucleosomes, 2) enhances acetylation of an H3 histone tail when the other H3 tail within a nucleosome is already acetylated, and 3) augments the acetylation turnover of nucleosomes previously acetylated at lysine 16 of the histone H4 tails. These results indicate that the Gcn5 bromodomain promotes the establishment of nucleosome acetylation through multiple mechanisms and more generally show how chromatin recognition domains can modulate the enzymatic activity of chromatin modifying complexes.