Histone H3 tail binds a unique sensing pocket in EZH2 to activate the PRC2 methyltransferase

Krupa S. Jani, Siddhant U. Jain, Eva J. Ge, Katharine L. Diehl, Stefan M. Lundgren, Manuel M. Müller, Peter W. Lewis, Tom W. Muir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 (EZH2) is the catalytic subunit of Polycomb Repressor Complex 2 (PRC2), the enzyme that catalyzes monomethylation, dimethylation, and trimethylation of lysine 27 on histone H3 (H3K27). Trimethylation at H3K27 (H3K27me3) is associated with transcriptional silencing of developmentally important genes. Intriguingly, H3K27me3 is mutually exclusive with H3K36 trimethylation on the same histone tail. Disruptions in this cross-talk result in aberrant H3K27/H3K36 methylation patterns and altered transcriptional profiles that have been implicated in tumorigenesis and other disease states. Despite their importance, the molecular details of how PRC2 “senses” H3K36 methylation are unclear. We demonstrate that PRC2 is activated in cis by the unmodified side chain of H3K36, and that this activation results in a fivefold increase in the kcat of its enzymatic activity catalyzing H3K27 methylation compared with activity on a substrate methylated at H3K36. Using a photo-cross-linking MS strategy and histone methyltransferase activity assays on PRC2 mutants, we find that EZH2 contains a specific sensing pocket for the H3K36 methylation state that allows the complex to distinguish between modified and unmodified H3K36 residues, altering enzymatic activity accordingly to preferentially methylate the unmodified nucleosome substrate. We also present evidence that this process may be disrupted in some cases of Weaver syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8295-8300
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Chemical biology
  • Designer chromatin
  • PRC2 methyltransferase


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