|The HPV E6 oncoprotein targets histone methyltransferases for modulating specific gene transcription.|
Hsu, CH; Peng, KL; Jhang, HC; Lin, CH; Wu, SY; Chiang, CM; Lee, SC; Yu, WC; Juan, LJ
Expression of viral proteins causes important epigenetic changes leading to abnormal cell growth. Whether viral proteins directly target histone methyltransferases (HMTs), a key family enzyme for epigenetic regulation, and modulate their enzymatic activities remains elusive. Here we show that the E6 proteins of both low-risk and high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) interact with three coactivator HMTs, CARM1, PRMT1 and SET7, and downregulate their enzymatic activities in vitro and in HPV-transformed HeLa cells. Furthermore, these three HMTs are required for E6 to attenuate p53 transactivation function. Mechanistically, E6 hampers CARM1- and PRMT1-catalyzed histone methylation at p53-responsive promoters, and suppresses the binding of p53 to chromatinized DNA independently of E6-mediated p53 degradation. p53 pre-methylated at lysine-372 (p53K372 mono-methylation) by SET7 protects p53 from E6-induced degradation. Consistently, E6 downregulates p53K372 mono-methylation and thus reduces p53 protein stability. As a result of the E6-mediated inhibition of HMT activity, expression of p53 downstream genes is suppressed. Together, our results not only reveal a clever approach for the virus to interfere with p53 function, but also demonstrate the modulation of HMT activity as a novel mechanism of epigenetic regulation by a viral oncoprotein.