Letter | Published:

SIRT1 regulates the histone methyl-transferase SUV39H1 during heterochromatin formation

Nature volume 450, pages 440444 (15 November 2007) | Download Citation


In contrast to stably repressive, constitutive heterochromatin and stably active, euchromatin, facultative heterochromatin has the capacity to alternate between repressive and activated states of transcription1. As such, it is an instructive source to understand the molecular basis for changes in chromatin structure that correlate with transcriptional status. Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) and suppressor of variegation 3–9 homologue 1 (SUV39H1) are amongst the enzymes responsible for chromatin modulations associated with facultative heterochromatin formation. SUV39H1 is the principal enzyme responsible for the accumulation of histone H3 containing a tri-methyl group at its lysine 9 position (H3K9me3) in regions of heterochromatin2. SIRT1 is an NAD+-dependent deacetylase that targets histone H4 at lysine 16 (refs 3 and 4), and through an unknown mechanism facilitates increased levels of H3K9me3 (ref. 3). Here we show that the mammalian histone methyltransferase SUV39H1 is itself targeted by the histone deacetylase SIRT1 and that SUV39H1 activity is regulated by acetylation at lysine residue 266 in its catalytic SET domain. SIRT1 interacts directly with, recruits and deacetylates SUV39H1, and these activities independently contribute to elevated levels of SUV39H1 activity resulting in increased levels of the H3K9me3 modification. Loss of SIRT1 greatly affects SUV39H1-dependent H3K9me3 and impairs localization of heterochromatin protein 1. These findings demonstrate a functional link between the heterochromatin-related histone methyltransferase SUV39H1 and the histone deacetylase SIRT1.

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We thank T. Jenuwein for sharing expression plasmids for wild-type and mutant versions of SUV39H1 and SUV39H1 MEF cells (wild type and -/-); F. W. Alt for SIRT1 MEF cells (wild type and -/-); P. Trojer and other members of the Reinberg laboratory for discussions; L. Vales for comments on the manuscript; K. Cabane for technical assistance; and L. Lacomis for help with mass spectrometric analysis. This work was supported by the NIH and HHMI (D.R.) and the NCI Cancer Center (P.T.).

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    • Alejandro Vaquero

    Present address: ICREA and IBMB-CSIC/IRB, Parc Cientific de Barcelona, Josep Samitier 1–5, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Division of Nucleic Acids Enzymology, Department of Biochemistry, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Jersey 08854, USA

    • Alejandro Vaquero
    • , Michael Scher
    •  & Danny Reinberg
  2. Department of Genetics, Human Genetics Institute, Rutgers University, 145 Bevier Road, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA

    • Lourdes Serrano
  3. Department of Biochemistry, NYU-Medical School, 522 First Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA

    • Michael Scher
    •  & Danny Reinberg
  4. Molecular Biology Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA

    • Hediye Erdjument-Bromage
    •  & Paul Tempst


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Danny Reinberg.

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