Genome-wide profiling reveals a dual role for histone H2A monoubiquitylation at Polycomb-repressed and enhancer chromatin

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Histone modifications are an integral component of eukaryotic genome regulation. Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 (PRC1) is responsible for depositing histone H2A lysine 119 monoubiquitylation (H2AK119ub) and can work cooperatively with PRC2-mediated histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) to maintain gene repression. However, H3K27me3-independent functions and roles in gene activation have also been described for PRC1. Thus, the extent to which Polycomb complexes and their corresponding histone modifications function together or independently and the conservation of these roles in different organisms is unclear. Using C. elegans as a model, we investigated the relationship between H2AK119ub and H3K27me3. Here we show that the majority of H2AK119ub and H3K27me3 enrichment across the genome in embryos is distinct, and that the bulk levels of these modifications are regulated independently. We identify many genes related to nervous system development and functionality that have H2AK119ub-enriched promoters and are misregulated in H2AK119ub-deficient mutants, including a subset of genes that are normally H3K27me3-repressed. Surprisingly, we also find an enrichment of H2AK119ub at enhancers, including enhancers proximal to genes which are both up-regulated and down-regulated following the loss of this histone modification. Together, our results indicate a dual role for H2AK119ub in the regulation of both H3K27me3-repressed and enhancer chromatin states.

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