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Talking to chromatin: post-translational modulation of polycomb group function

Author(s): Niessen Hanneke EC | Demmers Jeroen A | Voncken Jan

Journal: Epigenetics & Chromatin
ISSN 1756-8935

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 10;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Polycomb Group proteins are important epigenetic regulators of gene expression. Epigenetic control by polycomb Group proteins involves intrinsic as well as associated enzymatic activities. Polycomb target genes change with cellular context, lineage commitment and differentiation status, revealing dynamic regulation of polycomb function. It is currently unclear how this dynamic modulation is controlled and how signaling affects polycomb-mediated epigenetic processes at the molecular level. Experimental evidence on regulation of polycomb function by post-translational mechanisms is steadily emerging: Polycomb Group proteins are targeted for ubiquitylation, sumoylation and phosphorylation. In addition, specific Polycomb Group proteins modify other (chromatin) associated proteins via similar post-translational modifications. Such modifications affect protein function by affecting protein stability, protein-protein interactions and enzymatic activities. Here, we review current insights in covalent modification of Polycomb Group proteins in the context of protein function and present a tentative view of integrated signaling to chromatin in the context of phosphorylation. Clearly, the available literature reveals just the tip of the iceberg, and exact molecular mechanisms in, and the biological relevance of post-translational regulation of polycomb function await further elucidation. Our understanding of causes and consequences of post-translational modification of polycomb proteins will gain significantly from in vivo validation experiments. Impaired polycomb function has important repercussions for stem cell function, development and disease. Ultimately, increased understanding of signaling to chromatin and the mechanisms involved in epigenetic remodeling will contribute to the development of therapeutic interventions in cell fate decisions in development and disease.
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