Polycomb proteins implement genome-wide transcriptional repression in multicellular organisms. The evolutionarily conserved Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) catalyzes histone H3 Lys27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) that is read and effected by Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1) in animals, but the interpretation of this mark remains unclear in plants. Here we report that in the eudicot Arabidopsis thaliana two homologous BAH (Bromo adjacent homology) domain–containing proteins form a plant-specific complex with EMBRYONIC FLOWER 1 (EMF1), and that the BAH–EMF1 complex (BAH–EMF1c) reads and effects the H3K27me3 mark and mediates genome-wide transcriptional repression. Furthermore, in the monocot rice a homolog of the Arabidopsis BAH-domain proteins also binds methylated H3K27 and forms a complex with the rice homolog of EMF1, suggesting that BAH–EMF1c is conserved in flowering plants. Therefore, our results show that the plant-specific BAH–EMF1c fulfills PRC1-like functions in higher plants, suggesting a convergent evolution of PRC1 activity in plants and animals.
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We thank J. Du and X. Zhong for exchange of unpublished information; G. Xu, X. Gu, H. Zhang and the in-house genomics facility for assistance; and R. J. Schmitz for critically reading this manuscript. This work was supported in part by funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 31721001) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
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Nature Genetics (2018)