Nucleation and Propagation of Heterochromatin by the Histone Methyltransferase PRC2: Geometric Constraints and Impact of the Regulatory Subunit JARID2

Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) catalyzes mono-, di-, and trimethylation of lysine 27 on histone H3 (H3K27me1–3) to control expression of genes important for differentiation and maintenance of cell identity. PRC2 activity is regulated by a number of different inputs, including allosteric activation by its product, H3K27me3. This positive feedback loop is thought to be important for the establishment of large domains of condensed heterochromatin. In addition to other chromatin modifications, ancillary subunits of PRC2, foremost JARID2, affect the rate of H3K27 methylation. Many gaps remain in our understanding of how PRC2 integrates these various signals to determine where and when to deposit H3K27 methyl marks. In this study, we utilize designer chromatin substrates to demonstrate that propagation of H3K27 methylation by the PRC2 core complex has geometrically defined preferences that are overridden by the presence of JARID2. Our studies also show that phosphorylation of JARID2 can partially regulate its ability to stimulate PRC2 activity. Collectively, these biochemical insights further our understanding of the mechanisms that govern PRC2 activity, and highlight a role for JARID2 in de novo deposition of H3K27me3-containing repressive domains.