Spt10 and Spt21 are required for transcriptional silencing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, transcriptional silencing occurs at three classes of genomic regions: near the telomeres, at the silent mating type loci, and within the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) repeats. In all three cases, silencing depends upon several factors, including specific types of histone modifications. In this work we have investigated the roles in silencing for Spt10 and Spt21, two proteins previously shown to control transcription of particular histone genes. Building on a recent study showing that Spt10 is required for telomeric silencing, our results show that in both spt10 and spt21 mutants, silencing is reduced near telomeres and at HMLα, while it is increased at the rDNA. Both spt10 and spt21 mutations cause modest effects on Sir protein recruitment and histone modifications at telomeric regions, and they cause significant changes in chromatin structure, as judged by its accessibility to dam methylase. These silencing and chromatin changes are not seen upon deletion of HTA2-HTB2, the primary histone locus regulated by Spt10 and Spt21. These results suggest that Spt10 and Spt21 control silencing in S. cerevisiae by altering chromatin structure through roles beyond the control of histone gene expression.