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Polycomb-mediated gene silencing by the BAH–EMF1 complex in plants

Nature Geneticsvolume 50pages12541261 (2018) | Download Citation


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We thank J. Du and X. Zhong for exchange of unpublished information; G. Xu, X. Gu, H. Zhang and the in-house genomics facility for assistance; and R. J. Schmitz for critically reading this manuscript.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.

Author information

Author notes

    • Yizhong Wang

    Present address: School of Life Sciences, Huazhong Normal University, Wuhan, China

    • Renyi Liu

    Present address: Haixia Institute of Science and Technology, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou, China

  1. These authors contributed equally to this work: Xing Fu, Yizhong Wang.


  1. National Key Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics, Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology, CAS Center for Excellence in Molecular Plant Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Shanghai, China

    • Zicong Li
    •  & Yuehui He
  2. Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China

    • Xing Fu
    • , Yizhong Wang
    •  & Renyi Liu
  3. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

    • Yizhong Wang
    •  & Yuehui He


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Y.H. conceived and supervised the project. Z.L. and Y.W. performed the experimental work. X.F. and R.L. carried out all bioinformatic analyses. Z.L., X.F., Y.W., R.L. and Y.H. analyzed the data. Y.H. and Z.L. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yuehui He.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Figures

    Supplementary Figures 1–14 and Supplementary Table 3

  2. Reporting Summary

  3. Supplementary Table 1

    List of genes differentially expressed in lhp1, ebs shl, ebs shl lhp1 and emf1, compared to WT seedlings

  4. Supplementary Table 2

    List of genes occupied by SHL and EBS at a seedling stage

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