Polycomb repressive complexes (PRCs) 1 and 2 are essential chromatin regulators of cell identity. PRC1, a dominant executer of Polycomb-mediated control, functions as multiple sub-complexes that possess catalytic-dependent H2AK119 mono-ubiquitination (H2AK119ub) and catalytic-independent activities. Here, we show that, despite its well-established repressor functions, PRC1 binds to both silent and active genes. Through in vivo loss-of-function studies, we show that global PRC1 function is essential for skin development and stem cell (SC) specification, whereas PRC1 catalytic activity is dispensable. Further dissection demonstrated that both canonical and non-canonical PRC1 complexes bind to repressed genes, marked by H2AK119ub and PRC2-mediated H3K27me3. Interestingly, loss of canonical PRC1, PRC1 catalytic activity, or PRC2 leads to expansion of mechanosensitive Merkel cells in neonatal skin. Non-canonical PRC1 complexes, however, also bind to and promote expression of genes critical for skin development and SC formation. Together, our findings highlight PRC1's diverse roles in executing a precise developmental program.
The ring finger protein PCGF6 (polycomb group ring finger 6) interacts with RING1A/B and E2F6 associated factors to form a non-canonical PRC1 (polycomb repressive complex 1) known as PCGF6-PRC1. Here, we demonstrate that PCGF6-PRC1 plays a role in repressing a subset of PRC1 target genes by recruiting RING1B and mediating downstream mono-ubiquitination of histone H2A. PCGF6-PRC1 bound loci are highly enriched for promoters of germ cell-related genes in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Conditional ablation of Pcgf6 in ESCs leads to robust de-repression of such germ cell-related genes, in turn affecting cell growth and viability. We also find a role for PCGF6 in pre- and peri-implantation mouse embryonic development. We further show that a heterodimer of the transcription factors MAX and MGA recruits PCGF6 to target loci. PCGF6 thus links sequence specific target recognition by the MAX/MGA complex to PRC1-dependent transcriptional silencing of germ cell-specific genes in pluripotent stem cells.