Double-strand break-induced transcriptional silencing is associated with loss of tri-methylation at H3K4.


Epigenetic alterations induced by ionizing radiation may contribute to radiation carcinogenesis. To detect relative accumulations or losses of constitutive post-translational histone modifications in chromatin regions surrounding DNA double-strand breaks (DSB), we developed a method based on ion microirradiation and correlation of the signal intensities after immunofluorescence detection of the histone modification in question and the DSB marker $gamma$-H2AX. We observed after ionizing irradiation markers for transcriptional silencing, such as accumulation of H3K27me3 and loss of active RNA polymerase II, at chromatin regions labeled by $gamma$-H2AX. Confocal microscopy of whole nuclei and of ultrathin nuclear sections revealed that the histone modification H3K4me3, which labels transcriptionally active regions, is underrepresented in $gamma$-H2AX foci. While some exclusion of H3K4me3 is already evident at the earliest time amenable to this kind of analysis, the anti-correlation apparently increases with time after irradiation, suggesting an active removal process. Focal accumulation of the H3K4me3 demethylase, JARID1A, was observed at damaged regions inflicted by laser irradiation, suggesting involvement of this enzyme in the DNA damage response. Since no accumulation of the repressive mark H3K9me2 was found at damaged sites, we suggest that DSB-induced transcriptional silencing resembles polycomb-mediated silencing rather than heterochromatic silencing.

Chromosome research: an international journal on the molecular, supramolecular and evolutionary aspects of chromosome biology, pp. 883–899