The Caenorhabditis elegans MES proteins are key chromatin regulators of the germline. MES-2, MES-3, and MES-6 form the C. elegans Polycomb repressive complex 2 and generate repressive H3K27me3. MES-4 generates H3K36me3 on germline-expressed genes. Transcript profiling of dissected mutant germlines revealed that MES-2/3/6 and MES-4 cooperate to promote the expression of germline genes and repress the X chromosomes and somatic genes. Results from genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation showed that H3K27me3 and H3K36me3 occupy mutually exclusive domains on the autosomes and that H3K27me3 is enriched on the X. Loss of MES-4 from germline genes causes H3K27me3 to spread to germline genes, resulting in reduced H3K27me3 elsewhere on the autosomes and especially on the X. Our findings support a model in which H3K36me3 repels H3K27me3 from germline genes and concentrates it on other regions of the genome. This antagonism ensures proper patterns of gene expression for germ cells, which includes repression of somatic genes and the X chromosomes.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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