Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 80-93

SET domain proteins modulate chromatin domains in eu- and heterochromatin

  • T. JenuweinAffiliated withResearch Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Dr. Bohrgasse 7, A-1030 Vienna (Austria), Fax +43 1 798 7153
  • , G. LaibleAffiliated withResearch Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Dr. Bohrgasse 7, A-1030 Vienna (Austria), Fax +43 1 798 7153
  • , R. DornAffiliated withInstitute of Genetics, Martin-Luther University of Halle, Domplatz 1, D-06108 Halle (Germany)
  • , G. ReuterAffiliated withInstitute of Genetics, Martin-Luther University of Halle, Domplatz 1, D-06108 Halle (Germany)

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Abstract.

The SET domain is a 130-amino acid, evolutionarily conserved sequence motif present in chromosomal proteins that function in modulating gene activities from yeast to mammals. Initially identified as members of the Polycomb- and trithorax-group (Pc-G and trx-G) gene families, which are required to maintain expression boundaries of homeotic selector (HOM-C) genes, SET domain proteins are also involved in position-effect-variegation (PEV), telomeric and centromeric gene silencing, and possibly in determining chromosome architecture. These observations implicate SET domain proteins as multifunctional chromatin regulators with activities in both eu- and heterochromatin – a role consistent with their modular structure, which combines the SET domain with additional sequence motifs of either a cysteine-rich region/zinc-finger type or the chromo domain. Multiple functions for chromatin regulators are not restricted to the SET protein family, since many trx-G (but only very few Pc-G) genes are also modifiers of PEV. Together, these data establish a model in which the modulation of chromatin domains is mechanistically linked with the regulation of key developmental loci (e.g. HOM-C).

Key words. SET domain; Pc-G and trx-G genes; PEV in Drosophila; telomeric silencing; Su(var) and E(var) genes; chromatin domains.