Indexed on: 16 Nov '04Published on: 16 Nov '04Published in: Molecular and cellular biology
In yeast, the establishment and maintenance of a transcriptionally silent chromatin state are dependent upon the acetylation state of the N terminus of histone proteins. Histone H4 proteins that contain mutations in N-terminal lysines disrupt heterochromatin and result in yeast that cannot mate. Introduction of a wild-type copy of histone H4 restores mating, despite the presence of the mutant protein, suggesting that mutant H4 protein is either excluded from, or tolerated in, chromatin. To understand how the cell differentiates wild-type histone and mutant histone in which the four N-terminal lysines were replaced with alanine (H4-4A), we analyzed silencing, growth phenotypes, and the histone composition of chromatin in yeast strains coexpressing equal amounts of wild-type and mutant H4 proteins (histone H4 heterozygote). We found that histone H4 heterozygotes have defects in heterochromatin silencing and growth, implying that mutations in H4 are not completely recessive. Nuclear preparations from histone H4 heterozygotes contained less mutant H4 than wild-type H4, consistent with the idea that cells exclude some of the mutant histone. Surprisingly, the N-terminal nuclear localization signal of H4-4A fused to green fluorescent protein was defective in nuclear localization, while a mutant in which the four lysines were replaced with arginine (H4-4R) appeared to have normal nuclear import, implying a role for the charged state of the acetylatable lysines in the nuclear import of histones. The biased partial exclusion of H4-4A was dependent upon Cac1p, the largest subunit of yeast chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF-1), as well as upon the karyopherin Kap123p, but was independent of Cac2p, another CAF-1 component, and other chromatin assembly proteins (Hir3p, Nap1p, and Asf1p). We conclude that N-terminal lysines of histone H4 are important for efficient histone nuclear import. In addition, our data support a model whereby Cac1p and Kap123 cooperate to ensure that only appropriately acetylated histone H4 proteins are imported into the nucleus.