Complete loss of H3K9 methylation dissolves mouse heterochromatin organization

Montavon, Thomas, et al. “Complete Loss of H3K9 Methylation Dissolves Mouse Heterochromatin Organization.” Nature Communications, no. 1, Springer Science and Business Media LLC, July 2021. Crossref, doi:10.1038/s41467-021-24532-8.


Histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) methylation is a central epigenetic modification that defines heterochromatin from unicellular to multicellular organisms. In mammalian cells, H3K9 methylation can be catalyzed by at least six distinct SET domain enzymes: Suv39h1/Suv39h2, Eset1/Eset2 and G9a/Glp. We used mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) with a conditional mutation for Eset1 and introduced progressive deletions for the other SET domain genes by CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Compound mutant MEFs for all six SET domain lysine methyltransferase (KMT) genes lack all H3K9 methylation states, derepress nearly all families of repeat elements and display genomic instabilities. Strikingly, the 6KO H3K9 KMT MEF cells no longer maintain heterochromatin organization and have lost electron-dense heterochromatin. This is a compelling analysis of H3K9 methylation-deficient mammalian chromatin and reveals a definitive function for H3K9 methylation in protecting heterochromatin organization and genome integrity.