Ubiquitination-dependent and -independent repression of target genes by SETDB1 reveal a context-dependent role for its methyltransferase activity during adipogenesis

Ji Zhang, Yoshihiro Matsumura, Yuka Kano, Ayano Yoshida, Takeshi Kawamura, Hiroyuki Hirakawa, Takeshi Inagaki, Toshiya Tanaka, Hiroshi Kimura, Shigeru Yanagi, Kiyoko Fukami, Takefumi Doi, Timothy F. Osborne, Tatsuhiko Kodama, Hiroyuki Aburatani, Juro Sakai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The lysine methyltransferase SETDB1, an enzyme responsible for methylation of histone H3 at lysine 9, plays a key role in H3K9 tri-methylation-dependent silencing of endogenous retroviruses and developmental genes. Recent studies have shown that ubiquitination of human SETDB1 complements its catalytic activity and the silencing of endogenous retroviruses in human embryonic stem cells. However, it is not known whether SETDB1 ubiquitination is essential for its other major role in epigenetic silencing of developmental gene programs. We previously showed that SETDB1 contributes to the formation of H3K4/H3K9me3 bivalent chromatin domains that keep adipogenic Cebpa and Pparg genes in a poised state for activation and restricts the differentiation potential of pre-adipocytes. Here, we show that ubiquitin-resistant K885A mutant of SETDB1 represses adipogenic genes and inhibits pre-adipocyte differentiation similar to wild-type SETDB1. We show this was due to a compensation mechanism for H3K9me3 chromatin modifications on the Cebpa locus by other H3K9 methyltransferases Suv39H1 and Suv39H2. In contrast, the K885A mutant did not repress other SETDB1 target genes such as Tril and Gas6 suggesting SETDB1 represses its target genes by two mechanisms; one that requires its ubiquitination and another that still requires SETDB1 but not its enzyme activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-529
Number of pages17
JournalGenes to Cells
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • H3K9me3
  • adipocytes
  • adipogenesis
  • bivalent chromatin domains
  • epigenome
  • histone methylation
  • post-translational modifications
  • ubiquitination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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