September 22, 2019  |  

Reconstitution of eukaryotic chromosomes and manipulation of DNA N6-methyladenine alters chromatin and gene expression

Authors: Beh, Leslie Y and Debelouchina, Galia T and Clay, Derek M and Thompson, Robert E and Lindblad, Kelsi A and Hutton, Elizabeth R and Bracht, John R and Sebra, Robert P and Muir, Tom W and Landweber, Laura F

DNA N6-adenine methylation (6mA) has recently been reported in diverse eukaryotes, spanning unicellular organisms to metazoans. Yet the functional significance of 6mA remains elusive due to its low abundance, difficulty of manipulation within native DNA, and lack of understanding of eukaryotic 6mA writers. Here, we report a novel DNA 6mA methyltransferase in ciliates, termed MTA1. The enzyme contains an MT-A70 domain but is phylogenetically distinct from all known RNA and DNA methyltransferases. Disruption of MTA1 in vivo leads to the genome-wide loss of 6mA in asexually growing cells and abolishment of the consensus ApT dimethylated motif. Genes exhibit subtle changes in chromatin organization or RNA expression upon loss of 6mA, depending on their starting methylation level. Mutants fail to complete the sexual cycle, which normally coincides with a peak of MTA1 expression. Thus, MTA1 functions in a developmental stage-specific manner. We determine the impact of 6mA on chromatin organization in vitro by reconstructing complete, full-length ciliate chromosomes harboring 6mA in native or ectopic positions. Using these synthetic chromosomes, we show that 6mA directly disfavors nucleosomes in vitro in a local, quantitative manner, independent of DNA sequence. Furthermore, the chromatin remodeler ACF can overcome this effect. Our study identifies a novel MT-A70 protein necessary for eukaryotic 6mA methylation and defines the impact of 6mA on chromatin organization using epigenetically defined synthetic chromosomes.

Journal: BioRxiv
DOI: 10.1101/475384
Year: 2018

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