Histone post-translational modifications (PTMs) carry an epigenetic layer of message to regulate diverse cellular processes at the chromatin level. Many of these PTMs are selectively recognized by dedicated effector proteins for normal cell growth and development, while dysregulation of these recognition events is often implicated in human diseases, notably cancer. Thus, it is fundamentally important to elucidate the regulatory mechanism(s) underlying the readout of PTMs on histones. The af9, NL, F9, af14, as5 (YEATS) domain is an emerging reader module that selectively recognizes histone lysine acylation with a preference for crotonylation over acetylation. In the review, we discuss the recognition of histone acylations by the YEATS domain and the biological significance of this readout from multiple perspectives.
Recurrent chromosomal translocations producing a chimaeric MLL oncogene give rise to a highly aggressive acute leukaemia associated with poor clinical outcome(1). The preferential involvement of chromatin-associated factors as MLL fusion partners belies a dependency on transcription control(2). Despite recent progress made in targeting chromatin regulators in cancer(3), available therapies for this well-characterized disease remain inadequate, prompting the need to identify new targets for therapeutic intervention. Here, using unbiased CRISPR-Cas9 technology to perform a genome-scale loss-of-function screen in an MLL-AF4-positive acute leukaemia cell line, we identify ENL as an unrecognized gene that is specifically required for proliferation in vitro and in vivo. To explain the mechanistic role of ENL in leukaemia pathogenesis and dynamic transcription control, a chemical genetic strategy was developed to achieve targeted protein degradation. Acute loss of ENL suppressed the initiation and elongation of RNA polymerase II at active genes genome-wide, with pronounced effects at genes featuring a disproportionate ENL load. Notably, an intact YEATS chromatin-reader domain was essential for ENL-dependent leukaemic growth. Overall, these findings identify a dependency factor in acute leukaemia and suggest a mechanistic rationale for disrupting the YEATS domain in disease.
The discovery of new histone modifications is unfolding at startling rates; however, the identification of effectors capable of interpreting these modifications has lagged behind. Here we report the YEATS domain as an effective reader of histone lysine crotonylation, an epigenetic signature associated with active transcription. We show that the Taf14 YEATS domain engages crotonyllysine via a unique pi-pi-pi-stacking mechanism and that other YEATS domains have crotonyllysine-binding activity.
The recognition of modified histones by “reader” proteins constitutes a key mechanism regulating gene expression in the chromatin context. Compared with the great variety of readers for histone methylation, few protein modules that recognize histone acetylation are known. Here, we show that the AF9 YEATS domain binds strongly to histone H3K9 acetylation and, to a lesser extent, H3K27 and H3K18 acetylation. Crystal structural studies revealed that AF9 YEATS adopts an eight-stranded immunoglobin fold and utilizes a serine-lined aromatic “sandwiching” cage for acetyllysine readout, representing a novel recognition mechanism that is distinct from that of known acetyllysine readers. ChIP-seq experiments revealed a strong colocalization of AF9 and H3K9 acetylation genome-wide, which is important for the chromatin recruitment of the H3K79 methyltransferase DOT1L. Together, our studies identified the evolutionarily conserved YEATS domain as a novel acetyllysine-binding module and established a direct link between histone acetylation and DOT1L-mediated H3K79 methylation in transcription control. The evolutionarily conserved YEATS domain is a novel acetyllysine-binding module and binds strongly to histone H3K9 acetylation. It serves as a direct link between histone acetylation and DOT1L-mediated H3K79 methylation in transcription control.
Recognition of histone covalent modifications by chromatin-binding protein modules (“readers”) constitutes a major mechanism for epigenetic regulation, typified by bromodomains that bind acetyllysine. Non-acetyl histone lysine acylations (e.g., crotonylation, butyrylation, propionylation) have been recently identified, but readers that prefer these acylations have not been characterized. Here we report that the AF9 YEATS domain displays selectively higher binding affinity for crotonyllysine over acetyllysine. Structural studies revealed an extended aromatic sandwiching cage with crotonyl specificity arising from π-aromatic and hydrophobic interactions between crotonyl and aromatic rings. These features are conserved among the YEATS, but not the bromodomains. Using a cell-based model, we showed that AF9 co-localizes with crotonylated histone H3 and positively regulates gene expression in a YEATS domain-dependent manner. Our studies define the evolutionarily conserved YEATS domain as a family of crotonyllysine readers and specifically demonstrate that the YEATS domain of AF9 directly links histone crotonylation to active transcription. Li et al. demonstrate that the YEATS domain has an expanded acyl-binding repertoire with highest preference for crotonyllysine. The AF9 YEATS-crotonyllysine interaction is critical for histone crotonylation-dependent gene activation in the context of the inflammatory response.
YEATS domain (YD) containing proteins are an emerging class of epigenetic targets in drug discovery. Dysregulation of these modified lysine‐binding proteins has been linked to the onset and progression of cancers. We herein report the discovery and characterisation of the first small‐molecule chemical probe, SGC ‐ iMLLT , for the YD of MLLT1 (ENL/YEATS1) and MLLT3 (AF9/YEATS3). SGC‐iMLLT is a potent and selective inhibitor of MLLT1/3–histone interactions. Excellent selectivity over other human YD proteins (YEATS2/4) and bromodomains was observed. Furthermore, our probe displays cellular target engagement of MLLT1 and MLLT3. The first small‐molecule X‐ray co‐crystal structures with the MLLT1 YD are also reported. This first‐in‐class probe molecule can be used to understand MLLT1/3‐associated biology and the therapeutic potential of small‐molecule YD inhibitors. Molecular poetry : YEATS domain (YD) containing proteins are an emerging class of epigenetic protein targets in drug discovery. A screening hit has been developed into the first potent, selective, and cell‐active chemical probe for the YD‐containing proteins MLLT1 and MLLT3. The probe represents the first inhibitor of its class to explore YD‐associated biology and disease links.