Honors & Awards

  • Valkhof Chair Award, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands (2017)
  • Investigator Award, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2015)
  • Harland Winfield Mossman Award in Developmental Biology, American Association of Anatomists (2013)
  • Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, Vilcek Foundation (2013)
  • ISSCR Outstanding Young Investigator Award, International Society for Stem Cell Research (2010)
  • Distinguished Young Scholar in Biomedical Research, W.M.Keck Foundation (2008-2013)
  • New Faculty Award, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (2008-2013)
  • Searle Scholar, Chicago Community Trust (2007-2010)
  • Faculty Scholar, Baxter Foundation (2007)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (2004-2006)

Professional Education

  • postdoctoral education, The Rockefeller University, Chromatin Biology (2006)
  • PhD, IBB Polish Academy of Science & Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Biochemistry (2003)
  • MSc, Warsaw University, Molecular Biology (1998)

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

We are employing a broad combination of genomic, genetic, biochemical, biophysical, single-cell and embryological approaches in number of cellular and organismal models to investigate functions of the non-coding parts of the genome, understand regulatory mechanisms underlying cellular plasticity and differentiation, investigate how quantitative changes in gene expression dictate differences in human traits, and study craniofacial development, evolution and disease.

Central to the cell type-specific transcriptional regulation are distal cis-regulatory elements called enhancers, canonically defined as short noncoding DNA sequences that act to drive transcription independent of their relative distance, location or orientation to their cognate promoter. A major area of investigation in our laboratory is focused on general mechanisms of long-range gene regulation by enhancers, which can activate their target genes over tens of even hundreds of kilobases of genomic distances. We are striving to understand how enhancers are activated in response to developmental stimuli, how they communicate with target promoters, what is the dynamics of this process in living cells, and what is the role of chromatin context in priming or restricting enhancer activity. 

Our laboratory uses Cranial Neural Crest Cells (CNCCs) as a paradigm to study how genetic information harbored by regulatory elements is decoded into a diversity of functions, behaviors and morphologies. CNCCs are a transient embryonic cell group which delaminates from the neural tube, migrates long distances and acquires an extraordinarily broad differentiation potential, ultimately giving rise to most of the craniofacial structures and determining their individual and species-specific variation. Over a third of human congenital malformations is linked to CNCC dysfunction, including over 700 syndromes with craniofacial manifestations.

The goal of our ongoing research effort is to understand how variation in gene expression translates into differences in CNCC behavior, leading to the emergence of normal-range and disease-associated morphological diversity in the craniofacial form. This gene expression variation can result both from the trans-regulatory differences, such as those associated with mutations of transcriptional and chromatin regulators in craniofacial syndromes, and from the variation in cis-regulatory sequences like enhancers. To understand both mechanisms of variation and their cell type specificity, we are using human pluripotent stem cell differentiation models that recapitulate induction, migration and differentiation of CNCCs in the dish and facilitate modeling of human neurocristopathies. To study impact of regulatory changes on facial morphology, we are combining these in vitro models with the in vivo work in mice and frogs and, in collaboration with human geneticists and anthropologists, with the morphometric measurements of craniofacial features in human populations.

Transposable element (TE) derived sequences comprise nearly half of the human genome. It is not always appreciated, however, that most TEs that are present in modern humans invaded the ancestral genome at various points of primate evolution, but are typically not shared with more distal mammals such as rodents. Thus, TE derived sequences form a vast reservoir of largely primate-specific sequences from which novel regulatory functions can evolve. We are interested in understanding how TEs may serve as a substrate for evolution of species- and tissue-specific cis-regulatory elements for the host genes, and we are investigating a developmental aspect of transposon regulation.


2017-18 Courses

Stanford Advisees


All Publications

  • Mll3 and Mll4 Facilitate Enhancer RNA Synthesis and Transcription from Promoters Independently of H3K4 Monomethylation MOLECULAR CELL Dorighi, K. M., Swigut, T., Henriques, T., Bhanu, N. V., Scruggs, B. S., Nady, N., Still, C. D., Garcia, B. A., Adelman, K., Wysocka, J. 2017; 66 (4): 568-?


    Monomethylation of histone H3 at lysine 4 (H3K4me1) and acetylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27ac) are correlated with transcriptionally engaged enhancer elements, but the functional impact of these modifications on enhancer activity is not well understood. Here we used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to separate catalytic activity-dependent and independent functions of Mll3 (Kmt2c) and Mll4 (Kmt2d, Mll2), the major enhancer H3K4 monomethyltransferases. Loss of H3K4me1 from enhancers in Mll3/4 catalytically deficient cells causes partial reduction of H3K27ac, but has surprisingly minor effects on transcription from either enhancers or promoters. In contrast, loss of Mll3/4 proteins leads to strong depletion of enhancer Pol II occupancy and eRNA synthesis, concomitant with downregulation of target genes. Interestingly, downregulated genes exhibit reduced polymerase levels in gene bodies, but not at promoters, suggestive of pause-release defects. Altogether, our results suggest that enhancer H3K4me1 provides only a minor contribution to the long-range coactivator function of Mll3/4.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.molcel.2017.04.018

    View details for Web of Science ID 000401512200014

    View details for PubMedID 28483418

  • Selective silencing of euchromatic L1s revealed by genome-wide screens for L1 regulators. Nature Liu, N., Lee, C. H., Swigut, T., Grow, E., Gu, B., Bassik, M., Wysocka, J. 2017


    Transposable elements (TEs) are now recognized not only as parasitic DNA, whose spread in the genome must be controlled by the host, but also as major players in genome evolution and regulation1-6. Long INterspersed Element-1 (LINE-1 or L1), the only currently autonomous mobile transposon in humans, occupies 17% of the genome and continues to generate inter- and intra-individual genetic variation, in some cases resulting in disease1-7. Nonetheless, how L1 activity is controlled and what function L1s play in host gene regulation remain incompletely understood. Here, we use CRISPR/Cas9 screening strategies in two distinct human cell lines to provide the first genome-wide survey of genes involved in L1 retrotransposition control. We identified functionally diverse genes that either promote or restrict L1 retrotransposition. These genes, often associated with human diseases, control the L1 lifecycle at transcriptional or post-transcriptional levels and in a manner that can depend on the endogenous L1 sequence, underscoring the complexity of L1 regulation. We further investigated L1 restriction by MORC2 and human silencing hub (HUSH) complex subunits MPP8 and TASOR8. HUSH/MORC2 selectively bind evolutionarily young, full-length L1s located within transcriptionally permissive euchromatic environment, and promote H3K9me3 deposition for transcriptional silencing. Interestingly, these silencing events often occur within introns of transcriptionally active genes and lead to down-regulation of host gene expression in a HUSH/MORC2-dependent manner. Together, we provide a rich resource for studies of L1 retrotransposition, elucidate a novel L1 restriction pathway, and illustrate how epigenetic silencing of TEs rewires host gene expression programs.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature25179

    View details for PubMedID 29211708

  • Ever-Changing Landscapes: Transcriptional Enhancers in Development and Evolution CELL Long, H. K., Prescott, S. L., Wysocka, J. 2016; 167 (5): 1170-1187


    A class of cis-regulatory elements, called enhancers, play a central role in orchestrating spatiotemporally precise gene-expression programs during development. Consequently, divergence in enhancer sequence and activity is thought to be an important mediator of inter- and intra-species phenotypic variation. Here, we give an overview of emerging principles of enhancer function, current models of enhancer architecture, genomic substrates from which enhancers emerge during evolution, and the influence of three-dimensional genome organization on long-range gene regulation. We discuss intricate relationships between distinct elements within complex regulatory landscapes and consider their potential impact on specificity and robustness of transcriptional regulation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.018

    View details for Web of Science ID 000389470100011

    View details for PubMedID 27863239

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5123704

  • Enhancer Divergence and cis-Regulatory Evolution in the Human and Chimp Neural Crest. Cell Prescott, S. L., Srinivasan, R., Marchetto, M. C., Grishina, I., Narvaiza, I., Selleri, L., Gage, F. H., Swigut, T., Wysocka, J. 2015; 163 (1): 68-83

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2015.08.036

    View details for PubMedID 26365491

  • Intrinsic retroviral reactivation in human preimplantation embryos and pluripotent cells. Nature Grow, E. J., Flynn, R. A., Chavez, S. L., Bayless, N. L., Wossidlo, M., Wesche, D. J., Martin, L., Ware, C. B., Blish, C. A., Chang, H. Y., Pera, R. A., Wysocka, J. 2015; 522 (7555): 221-225


    Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are remnants of ancient retroviral infections, and comprise nearly 8% of the human genome. The most recently acquired human ERV is HERVK(HML-2), which repeatedly infected the primate lineage both before and after the divergence of the human and chimpanzee common ancestor. Unlike most other human ERVs, HERVK retained multiple copies of intact open reading frames encoding retroviral proteins. However, HERVK is transcriptionally silenced by the host, with the exception of in certain pathological contexts such as germ-cell tumours, melanoma or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Here we demonstrate that DNA hypomethylation at long terminal repeat elements representing the most recent genomic integrations, together with transactivation by OCT4 (also known as POU5F1), synergistically facilitate HERVK expression. Consequently, HERVK is transcribed during normal human embryogenesis, beginning with embryonic genome activation at the eight-cell stage, continuing through the emergence of epiblast cells in preimplantation blastocysts, and ceasing during human embryonic stem cell derivation from blastocyst outgrowths. Remarkably, we detected HERVK viral-like particles and Gag proteins in human blastocysts, indicating that early human development proceeds in the presence of retroviral products. We further show that overexpression of one such product, the HERVK accessory protein Rec, in a pluripotent cell line is sufficient to increase IFITM1 levels on the cell surface and inhibit viral infection, suggesting at least one mechanism through which HERVK can induce viral restriction pathways in early embryonic cells. Moreover, Rec directly binds a subset of cellular RNAs and modulates their ribosome occupancy, indicating that complex interactions between retroviral proteins and host factors can fine-tune pathways of early human development.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature14308

    View details for PubMedID 25896322

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4503379

  • CHARGE syndrome modeling using patient-iPSCs reveals defective migration of neural crest cells harboring CHD7 mutations. eLife Okuno, H., Renault Mihara, F., Ohta, S., Fukuda, K., Kurosawa, K., Akamatsu, W., Sanosaka, T., Kohyama, J., Hayashi, K., Nakajima, K., Takahashi, T., Wysocka, J., Kosaki, K., Okano, H. 2017; 6


    CHARGE syndrome is caused by heterozygous mutations in the chromatin remodeler, CHD7, and is characterized by a set of malformations that, on clinical grounds, were historically postulated to arise from defects in neural crest formation during embryogenesis. To better delineate neural crest defects in CHARGE syndrome, we generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from two patients with typical syndrome manifestations, and characterized neural crest cells differentiated in vitro from these iPSCs (iPSC-NCCs). We found that expression of genes associated with cell migration was altered in CHARGE iPSC-NCCs compared to control iPSC-NCCs. Consistently, CHARGE iPSC-NCCs showed defective delamination, migration and motility in vitro, and their transplantation in ovo revealed overall defective migratory activity in the chick embryo. These results support the historical inference that CHARGE syndrome patients exhibit defects in neural crest migration, and provide the first successful application of patient-derived iPSCs in modeling craniofacial disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.21114

    View details for PubMedID 29179815

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5705211

  • CSNK1a1 Regulates PRMT1 to Maintain the Progenitor State in Self-Renewing Somatic Tissue. Developmental cell Bao, X., Siprashvili, Z., Zarnegar, B. J., Shenoy, R. M., Rios, E. J., Nady, N., Qu, K., Mah, A., Webster, D. E., Rubin, A. J., Wozniak, G. G., Tao, S., Wysocka, J., Khavari, P. A. 2017; 43 (2): 227–39.e5


    Somatic progenitors sustain tissue self-renewal while suppressing premature differentiation. Protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) affect many processes; however, their role in progenitor function is incompletely understood. PRMT1 was found to be the most highly expressed PRMT in epidermal progenitors and the most downregulated PRMT during differentiation. In targeted mouse knockouts and in long-term regenerated human mosaic epidermis in vivo, epidermal PRMT1 loss abolished progenitor self-renewal and led to premature differentiation. Mass spectrometry of the PRMT1 protein interactome identified the CSNK1a1 kinase, which also proved essential for progenitor maintenance. CSNK1a1 directly bound and phosphorylated PRMT1 to control its genomic targeting to PRMT1-sustained proliferation genes as well as PRMT1-suppressed differentiation genes. Among the latter were GRHL3, whose derepression was required for the premature differentiation seen with PRMT1 and CSNK1a1 loss. Maintenance of the progenitors thus requires cooperation by PRMT1 and CSNK1a1 to sustain proliferation gene expression and suppress premature differentiation driven by GRHL3.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2017.08.021

    View details for PubMedID 28943242

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5659279

  • E2F activation of S phase promoters via association with HCF-1 and the MLL family of histone H3K4 methyltransferases MOLECULAR CELL Tyagi, S., Chabes, A. L., Wysocka, J., Herr, W. 2007; 27 (1): 107-119


    E2F transcriptional regulators control human-cell proliferation by repressing and activating the transcription of genes required for cell-cycle progression, particularly the S phase. E2F proteins repress transcription in association with retinoblastoma pocket proteins, but less is known about how they activate transcription. Here, we show that the human G1 phase regulator HCF-1 associates with both activator (E2F1 and E2F3a) and repressor (E2F4) E2F proteins, properties that are conserved in insect cells. Human HCF-1-E2F interactions are versatile: their associations and binding to E2F-responsive promoters are cell-cycle selective, and HCF-1 displays coactivator properties when bound to the E2F1 activator and corepressor properties when bound to the E2F4 repressor. During the G1-to-S phase transition, HCF-1 recruits the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) and Set-1 histone H3 lysine 4 methyltransferases to E2F-responsive promoters and induces histone methylation and transcriptional activation. These results suggest that HCF-1 induces cell-cycle-specific transcriptional activation by E2F proteins to promote cell proliferation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.molcel.2007.05.030

    View details for Web of Science ID 000248088500010

    View details for PubMedID 17612494

  • Methylation of lysine 4 on histone H3: Intricacy of writing and reading a single epigenetic mark MOLECULAR CELL Ruthenburg, A. J., Allis, C. D., Wysocka, J. 2007; 25 (1): 15-30


    Cells employ elaborate mechanisms to introduce structural and chemical variation into chromatin. Here, we focus on one such element of variation: methylation of lysine 4 in histone H3 (H3K4). We assess a growing body of literature, including treatment of how the mark is established, the patterns of methylation, and the functional consequences of this epigenetic signature. We discuss structural aspects of the H3K4 methyl recognition by the downstream effectors and propose a distinction between sequence-specific recruitment mechanisms and stabilization on chromatin through methyl-lysine recognition. Finally, we hypothesize how the unique properties of the polyvalent chromatin fiber and associated effectors may amplify small differences in methyl-lysine recognition, simultaneously allowing for a dynamic chromatin architecture.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.molcel.2006.12.014

    View details for Web of Science ID 000243566700002

    View details for PubMedID 17218268

  • Identifying novel proteins recognizing histone modifications using peptide pull-down assay METHODS Wysocka, J. 2006; 40 (4): 339-343


    Post-translational modifications of histones have been correlated with virtually all chromatin-templated processes, including gene expression regulation, DNA replication, mitosis and meiosis, and DNA repair. In order to better understand the mechanistic basis by which histone modifications participate in the control of cellular processes, it is essential to identify and characterize downstream effector proteins, or "readers", that are responsible for recognizing different marks and translating them into specific biological outcomes. Ideally, identification of potential histone-binding effectors should occur in an unbiased fashion. Although in the recent years much progress has been made in identifying readers of histone modifications, in particular methylation, recognition of the majority of known histone marks is still poorly understood. Here I describe a simple and unbiased biochemical pull-down assay that allows for the identification of novel histone effector proteins and utilizes biotinylated histone peptides modified at various residues. I provide detailed protocols and suggestions for troubleshooting.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ymeth.2006.05.028

    View details for Web of Science ID 000242902600008

    View details for PubMedID 17101446

  • A PHD finger of NURF couples histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation with chromatin remodelling NATURE Wysocka, J., Swigut, T., Xiao, H., Milne, T. A., Kwon, S. Y., Landry, J., Kauer, M., Tackett, A. J., Chait, B. T., Badenhorst, P., Wu, C., Allis, C. D. 2006; 442 (7098): 86-90


    Lysine methylation of histones is recognized as an important component of an epigenetic indexing system demarcating transcriptionally active and inactive chromatin domains. Trimethylation of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) marks transcription start sites of virtually all active genes. Recently, we reported that the WD40-repeat protein WDR5 is important for global levels of H3K4me3 and control of HOX gene expression. Here we show that a plant homeodomain (PHD) finger of nucleosome remodelling factor (NURF), an ISWI-containing ATP-dependent chromatin-remodelling complex, mediates a direct preferential association with H3K4me3 tails. Depletion of H3K4me3 causes partial release of the NURF subunit, BPTF (bromodomain and PHD finger transcription factor), from chromatin and defective recruitment of the associated ATPase, SNF2L (also known as ISWI and SMARCA1), to the HOXC8 promoter. Loss of BPTF in Xenopus embryos mimics WDR5 loss-of-function phenotypes, and compromises spatial control of Hox gene expression. These results strongly suggest that WDR5 and NURF function in a common biological pathway in vivo, and that NURF-mediated ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling is directly coupled to H3K4 trimethylation to maintain Hox gene expression patterns during development. We also identify a previously unknown function for the PHD finger as a highly specialized methyl-lysine-binding domain.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature04815

    View details for Web of Science ID 000238724500042

    View details for PubMedID 16728976

  • Molecular basis for site-specific read-out of histone H3K4me3 by the BPTF PHD finger of NURF NATURE Li, H., Ilin, S., Wang, W., Duncan, E. M., Wysocka, J., Allis, C. D., Patel, D. J. 2006; 442 (7098): 91-95


    Mono-, di- and trimethylated states of particular histone lysine residues are selectively found in different regions of chromatin, thereby implying specialized biological functions for these marks ranging from heterochromatin formation to X-chromosome inactivation and transcriptional regulation. A major challenge in chromatin biology has centred on efforts to define the connection between specific methylation states and distinct biological read-outs impacting on function. For example, histone H3 trimethylated at lysine 4 (H3K4me3) is associated with transcription start sites of active genes, but the molecular 'effectors' involved in specific recognition of H3K4me3 tails remain poorly understood. Here we demonstrate the molecular basis for specific recognition of H3(1-15)K4me3 (residues 1-15 of histone H3 trimethylated at K4) by a plant homeodomain (PHD) finger of human BPTF (bromodomain and PHD domain transcription factor), the largest subunit of the ATP-dependent chromatin-remodelling complex, NURF (nucleosome remodelling factor). We report on crystallographic and NMR structures of the bromodomain-proximal PHD finger of BPTF in free and H3(1-15)K4me3-bound states. H3(1-15)K4me3 interacts through anti-parallel beta-sheet formation on the surface of the PHD finger, with the long side chains of arginine 2 (R2) and K4me3 fitting snugly in adjacent pre-formed surface pockets, and bracketing an invariant tryptophan. The observed stapling role by non-adjacent R2 and K4me3 provides a molecular explanation for H3K4me3 site specificity. Binding studies establish that the BPTF PHD finger exhibits a modest preference for K4me3- over K4me2-containing H3 peptides, and discriminates against monomethylated and unmodified counterparts. Furthermore, we identified key specificity-determining residues from binding studies of H3(1-15)K4me3 with PHD finger point mutants. Our findings call attention to the PHD finger as a previously uncharacterized chromatin-binding module found in a large number of chromatin-associated proteins.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature04802

    View details for Web of Science ID 000238724500043

    View details for PubMedID 16728978

  • Histone arginine methylation and its dynamic regulation FRONTIERS IN BIOSCIENCE-LANDMARK Wysocka, J., Allis, C. D., Coonrod, S. 2006; 11: 344-355


    Methylation of histones by protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) is increasingly being found to play an important and dynamic role in gene regulation. In mammals, PRMT1- and CARM1-catalyzed histone asymmetric dimethyl-arginine is involved in gene activation while PRMT5-catalyzed histone symmetric dimethyl-arginine is associated with gene repression. Insight into mechanisms by which histone arginine methylation can be dynamically regulated comes from recent reports demonstrating that conversion of histone methylarginine residues to citrulline by peptidylarginine deiminase 4 (PADI4) leads to transcriptional repression. While the downstream cellular effects of histone arginine methylation remain poorly understood, recent findings indicate that protein arginine methylation, in general, is required for mammalian development and is also likely important for cellular proliferation and differentiation. Given the surge of interest in histone arginine methylation, this review article will focus on recent progress in this area.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000232528000028

    View details for PubMedID 16146736

  • Taking LSD1 to a new high CELL Wysocka, J., Milne, T. A., Allis, C. D. 2005; 122 (5): 654-658


    Histone modifications mediate changes in gene expression by altering the underlying chromatin structure or by serving as a binding platform to recruit other proteins. One such modification, histone methylation, was thought to be irreversible until last year when Shi and co-workers broke new ground with their discovery of a lysine-specific histone demethylase (LSD 1). They showed that LSD 1, a nuclear amine oxidase homolog, is a bona fide histone H3 lysine 4 demethylase (Shi et al., 2004). Now, a new study from published in a recent issue of Molecular Cell, together with two studies recently published by and in Nature, reveal that LSD 1's specificity and activity is in fact regulated by associated protein cofactors.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2005.08.022

    View details for Web of Science ID 000231844300006

    View details for PubMedID 16143099

  • Physical association and coordinate function of the H3K4 methyltransferase MLL1 and the H4K16 acetyltransferase MOF CELL Dou, Y. L., Milne, T. A., Tackett, A. J., Smith, E. R., Fukuda, A., Wysocka, J., Allis, C. D., Chait, B. T., Hess, J. L., Roeder, R. G. 2005; 121 (6): 873-885


    A stable complex containing MLL1 and MOF has been immunoaffinity purified from a human cell line that stably expresses an epitope-tagged WDR5 subunit. Stable interactions between MLL1 and MOF were confirmed by reciprocal immunoprecipitation, cosedimentation, and cotransfection analyses, and interaction sites were mapped to MLL1 C-terminal and MOF zinc finger domains. The purified complex has a robust MLL1-mediated histone methyltransferase activity that can effect mono-, di-, and trimethylation of H3 K4 and a MOF-mediated histone acetyltransferase activity that is specific for H4 K16. Importantly, both activities are required for optimal transcription activation on a chromatin template in vitro and on an endogenous MLL1 target gene, Hox a9, in vivo. These results indicate an activator-based mechanism for joint MLL1 and MOF recruitment and targeted methylation and acetylation and provide a molecular explanation for the closely correlated distribution of H3 K4 methylation and H4 K16 acetylation on active genes.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2005.04.031

    View details for Web of Science ID 000230011200010

    View details for PubMedID 15960975

  • WDR5 associates with histone H3 methylated at K4 and is essential for H3K4 methylation and vertebrate development CELL Wysocka, J., Swigut, T., Milne, T. A., Dou, Y. L., Zhang, X., Burlingame, A. L., Roeder, R. G., Brivanlou, A. H., Allis, C. D. 2005; 121 (6): 859-872


    Histone H3 lysine 4 (K4) methylation has been linked to the transcriptional activation in a variety of eukaryotic species. Here we show that a common component of MLL1, MLL2, and hSet1 H3 K4 methyltransferase complexes, the WD40-repeat protein WDR5, directly associates with histone H3 di- and trimethylated at K4 and with H3-K4-dimethylated nucleosomes. WDR5 is required for binding of the methyltransferase complex to the K4-dimethylated H3 tail as well as for global H3 K4 trimethylation and HOX gene activation in human cells. WDR5 is essential for vertebrate development, in that WDR5-depleted X. laevis tadpoles exhibit a variety of developmental defects and abnormal spatial Hox gene expression. Our results are the first demonstration that a WD40-repeat protein acts as a module for recognition of a specific histone modification and suggest a mechanism for reading and writing an epigenetic mark for gene activation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2005.03.036

    View details for Web of Science ID 000230011200009

    View details for PubMedID 15960974

  • Human PAD4 regulates histone arginine methylation levels via demethylimination SCIENCE Wang, Y., Wysocka, J., Sayegh, J., Lee, Y. H., Perlin, J. R., Leonelli, L., Sonbuchner, L. S., McDonald, C. H., COOK, R. G., Dou, Y., Roeder, R. G., Clarke, S., Stallcup, M. R., Allis, C. D., Coonrod, S. A. 2004; 306 (5694): 279-283


    Methylation of arginine (Arg) and lysine residues in histones has been correlated with epigenetic forms of gene regulation. Although histone methyltransferases are known, enzymes that demethylate histones have not been identified. Here, we demonstrate that human peptidylarginine deiminase 4 (PAD4) regulates histone Arg methylation by converting methyl-Arg to citrulline and releasing methylamine. PAD4 targets multiple sites in histones H3 and H4, including those sites methylated by coactivators CARM1 (H3 Arg17) and PRMT1 (H4 Arg3). A decrease of histone Arg methylation, with a concomitant increase of citrullination, requires PAD4 activity in human HL-60 granulocytes. Moreover, PAD4 activity is linked with the transcriptional regulation of estrogen-responsive genes in MCF-7 cells. These data suggest that PAD4 mediates gene expression by regulating Arg methylation and citrullination in histones.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1101400

    View details for Web of Science ID 000224419700041

    View details for PubMedID 15345777

  • Leukemia proto-oncoprotein MLL forms a SET1-like histone methyltransferase complex with menin to regulate Hox gene expression MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOLOGY Yokoyama, A., Wang, Z., Wysocka, J., Sanyal, M., Aufiero, D. J., Kitabayashi, I., Herr, W., Cleary, M. L. 2004; 24 (13): 5639-5649


    MLL (for mixed-lineage leukemia) is a proto-oncogene that is mutated in a variety of human leukemias. Its product, a homolog of Drosophila melanogaster trithorax, displays intrinsic histone methyltransferase activity and functions genetically to maintain embryonic Hox gene expression. Here we report the biochemical purification of MLL and demonstrate that it associates with a cohort of proteins shared with the yeast and human SET1 histone methyltransferase complexes, including a homolog of Ash2, another Trx-G group protein. Two other members of the novel MLL complex identified here are host cell factor 1 (HCF-1), a transcriptional coregulator, and the related HCF-2, both of which specifically interact with a conserved binding motif in the MLL(N) (p300) subunit of MLL and provide a potential mechanism for regulating its antagonistic transcriptional properties. Menin, a product of the MEN1 tumor suppressor gene, is also a component of the 1-MDa MLL complex. Abrogation of menin expression phenocopies loss of MLL and reveals a critical role for menin in the maintenance of Hox gene expression. Oncogenic mutant forms of MLL retain an ability to interact with menin but not other identified complex components. These studies link the menin tumor suppressor protein with the MLL histone methyltransferase machinery, with implications for Hox gene expression in development and leukemia pathogenesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/MCB.24.13.5639-5649.2004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000222149200001

    View details for PubMedID 15199122

  • Linking covalent histone modifications to epigenetics: The rigidity and plasticity of the marks 69th Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology Wang, Y., Wysocka, J., Perlin, J. R., Leonelli, L., Allis, C. D., Coonrod, S. A. COLD SPRING HARBOR LAB PRESS, PUBLICATIONS DEPT. 2004: 161–169

    View details for Web of Science ID 000232227200021

    View details for PubMedID 16117646

  • The herpes simplex virus VP16-induced complex: the makings of a regulatory switch TRENDS IN BIOCHEMICAL SCIENCES Wysocka, J., Herr, W. 2003; 28 (6): 294-304


    When herpes simplex virus (HSV) infects human cells, it is able to enter two modes of infection: lytic and latent. A key activator of lytic infection is a virion protein called VP16, which, upon infection of a permissive cell, forms a transcriptional regulatory complex with two cellular proteins - the POU-domain transcription factor Oct-1 and the cell-proliferation factor HCF-1 - to activate transcription of the first set of expressed viral genes. This regulatory complex, called the VP16-induced complex, reveals mechanisms of combinatorial control of transcription. The activities of Oct-1 and HCF-1 - two important regulators of cellular gene expression and proliferation - illuminate strategies by which HSV might coexist with its host.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/S0968-0004(03)00088-4

    View details for Web of Science ID 000183948400004

    View details for PubMedID 12826401

  • Human Sin3 deacetylase and trithorax-related Set1/Ash2 histone H3-K4 methyltransferase are tethered together selectively by the cell-proliferation factor HCF-1 GENES & DEVELOPMENT Wysocka, J., Myers, M. P., Laherty, C. D., Eisenman, R. N., Herr, W. 2003; 17 (7): 896-911


    The abundant and chromatin-associated protein HCF-1 is a critical player in mammalian cell proliferation as well as herpes simplex virus (HSV) transcription. We show here that separate regions of HCF-1 critical for its role in cell proliferation associate with the Sin3 histone deacetylase (HDAC) and a previously uncharacterized human trithorax-related Set1/Ash2 histone methyltransferase (HMT). The Set1/Ash2 HMT methylates histone H3 at Lys 4 (K4), but not if the neighboring K9 residue is already methylated. HCF-1 tethers the Sin3 and Set1/Ash2 transcriptional regulatory complexes together even though they are generally associated with opposite transcriptional outcomes: repression and activation of transcription, respectively. Nevertheless, this tethering is context-dependent because the transcriptional activator VP16 selectively binds HCF-1 associated with the Set1/Ash2 HMT complex in the absence of the Sin3 HDAC complex. These results suggest that HCF-1 can broadly regulate transcription, both positively and negatively, through selective modulation of chromatin structure.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/gad.252103

    View details for Web of Science ID 000182044700010

    View details for PubMedID 12670868

  • Inactivation of the retinoblastoma protein family can bypass the HCF-1 defect in tsBN67 cell proliferation and cytokinesis MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOLOGY Reilly, P. T., Wysocka, J., Herr, W. 2002; 22 (19): 6767-6778


    Owing to a single missense mutation in the cell proliferation factor HCF-1, the temperature-sensitive tsBN67 hamster cell line arrests proliferation at nonpermissive temperatures, primarily in a G(0)/G(1) state, and displays temperature-sensitive cytokinesis defects. The HCF-1 mutation in tsBN67 cells also causes a temperature-sensitive dissociation of HCF-1 from chromatin prior to cell proliferation arrest, suggesting that HCF-1-chromatin association is important for mammalian-cell proliferation. Here, we report that the simian virus 40 (SV40) early region, in particular, large T antigen (Tag), and the adenovirus oncoprotein E1A can rescue the tsBN67 cell proliferation defect at nonpermissive temperatures. The SV40 early region rescues the tsBN67 cell proliferation defect without restoring the HCF-1-chromatin association, indicating that these oncoproteins bypass a requirement for HCF-1 function. The SV40 early region also rescues the tsBN67 cytokinesis defect, suggesting that the roles of HCF-1 in cell proliferation and proper cytokinesis are intimately linked. The ability of SV40 Tag and adenovirus E1A to inactivate members of the pRb protein family-pRb, p107, and p130-is important for the bypass of HCF-1 function. These results suggest that HCF-1 regulates mammalian-cell proliferation and cytokinesis, at least in part, by either directly or indirectly opposing pRb family member function.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/MCB.22.19.6767-6778.2002

    View details for Web of Science ID 000177961900012

    View details for PubMedID 12215534

  • Loss of HCF-1-chromatin association precedes temperature-induced growth arrest of tsBN67 cells MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOLOGY Wysocka, J., Reilly, P. T., Herr, W. 2001; 21 (11): 3820-3829


    Human HCF-1 is a large, highly conserved, and abundant nuclear protein that plays an important but unknown role in cell proliferation. It also plays a role in activation of herpes simplex virus immediate-early gene transcription by the viral regulatory protein VP16. A single proline-to-serine substitution in the HCF-1 VP16 interaction domain causes a temperature-induced arrest of cell proliferation in hamster tsBN67 cells and prevents transcriptional activation by VP16. We show here that HCF-1 is naturally bound to chromatin in uninfected cells through its VP16 interaction domain. HCF-1 is chromatin bound in tsBN67 cells at permissive temperature but dissociates from chromatin before tsBN67 cells stop proliferating at the nonpermissive temperature, suggesting that loss of HCF-1 chromatin association is the primary cause of the temperature-induced tsBN67 cell proliferation arrest. We propose that the role of HCF-1 in cell proliferation is to regulate gene transcription by associating with a multiplicity of DNA-bound transcription factors through its VP16 interaction domain.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000168706600019

    View details for PubMedID 11340173

  • Developmental and cell-cycle regulation of Caenorhabditis elegans HCF phosphorylation BIOCHEMISTRY Wysocka, J., Liu, Y., Kobayashi, R., Herr, W. 2001; 40 (19): 5786-5794


    HCF-1 is a mammalian protein required for cell proliferation. It is also involved in transcriptional activation of herpes-simplex-virus immediate-early gene transcription in association with the viral transactivator VP16. HCF-1 and a related protein called HCF-2 possess a homologue in Caenorhabditis elegans that can associate with and activate VP16. Here, we demonstrate developmental regulation of C. elegans HCF (CeHCF) phosphorylation: a hyperphosphorylated form of CeHCF is present in embryos, whereas a hypophosphorylated form is present in L1 larvae. The phosphorylation patterns of endogenous CeHCF in worms and ectopically synthesized CeHCF in mammalian cells are remarkably similar, suggesting that the way CeHCF can be recognized by kinases is conserved in animals. Phosphorylation-site mapping of endogenous CeHCF, however, revealed that phosphorylation occurs at four clustered sites in the region of the protein that is not highly conserved among HCF proteins and is not required for VP16-induced complex formation. Indeed, phosphorylation of either CeHCF or human HCF-1 appears to be dispensable for association with VP16. All four CeHCF phosphorylation sites match the consensus recognition site for the cell-cycle kinases CDC2 and CDK2. Consistent with this similarity and with the developmental phosphorylation of CeHCF in C. elegans embryos, CeHCF phosphorylation is cell-cycle-regulated in mammalian cells.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000168635900023

    View details for PubMedID 11341844