From protein microarray to biology: The discovery of epigenetic regulatory molecules

Aimee Nicole Iberg, The University of Texas Grad. Sch. of Biomed. Sci. at Houston


Chromatin, composed of repeating nucleosome units, is the genetic polymer of life. To aid in DNA compaction and organized storage, the double helix wraps around a core complex of histone proteins to form the nucleosome, and is therefore no longer freely accessible to cellular proteins for the processes of transcription, replication and DNA repair. Over the course of evolution, DNA-based applications have developed routes to access DNA bound up in chromatin, and further, have actually utilized the chromatin structure to create another level of complexity and information storage. The histone molecules that DNA surrounds have free-floating tails that extend out of the nucleosome. These tails are post-translationally modified to create docking sites for the proteins involved in transcription, replication and repair, thus providing one prominent way that specific genomic sequences are accessed and manipulated. Adding another degree of information storage, histone tail-modifications paint the genome in precise manners to influence a state of transcriptional activity or repression, to generate euchromatin, containing gene-dense regions, or heterochromatin, containing repeat sequences and low-density gene regions. The work presented here is the study of histone tail modifications, how they are written and how they are read, divided into two projects. Both begin with protein microarray experiments where we discover the protein domains that can bind modified histone tails, and how multiple tail modifications can influence this binding. Project one then looks deeper into the enzymes that lay down the tail modifications. Specifically, we studied histone-tail arginine methylation by PRMT6. We found that methylation of a specific histone residue by PRMT6, arginine 2 of H3, can antagonize the binding of protein domains to the H3 tail and therefore affect transcription of genes regulated by the H3-tail binding proteins. Project two focuses on a protein we identified to bind modified histone tails, PHF20, and was an endeavor to discover the biological role of this protein. Thus, in total, we are looking at a complete process: (1) histone tail modification by an enzyme (here, PRMT6), (2) how this and other modifications are bound by conserved protein domains, and (3) by using PHF20 as an example, the functional outcome of binding through investigating the biological role of a chromatin reader. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Molecular

Recommended Citation

Iberg, Aimee Nicole, "From protein microarray to biology: The discovery of epigenetic regulatory molecules" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3394956.