Arabidopsis Histone Reader EMSY-LIKE 1 Binds H3K36 and Suppresses Geminivirus Infection.
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© 2018 American Society for Microbiology
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Histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs) impart information that regulates chromatin structure and activity. Their effects are mediated by histone reader proteins that bind specific PTMs to modify chromatin and/or recruit appropriate effectors to alter the chromatin landscape. Despite their crucial juxtaposition between information and functional outcome, relatively few plant histone readers have been identified, and nothing is known about their impact on viral chromatin and pathogenesis. We used the geminivirus Cabbage leaf curl virus (CaLCuV) as a model to functionally characterize two recently identified reader proteins, EMSY-LIKE 1 (EML1) and EML3, which contain Tudor-like Agenet domains predictive of histone PTM binding function. Here, we show that mutant Arabidopsis plants exhibit contrasting hypersusceptible (eml1) and tolerant (eml3) responses to CaLCuV infection and that EML1 deficiency correlates with RNA polymerase II (Pol II) enrichment on viral chromatin and upregulated viral gene expression. Consistent with reader activity, EML1 and EML3 associate with nucleosomes and with CaLCuV chromatin, suggesting a direct impact on pathogenesis. We also demonstrate that EML1 and EML3 bind peptides containing histone H3 lysine 36 (H3K36), a PTM usually associated with active gene expression. The interaction encompasses multiple H3K36 PTMs, including methylation and acetylation, suggesting nuanced regulation. Furthermore, EML1 and EML3 associate with similar regions of viral chromatin, implying possible competition between the two readers. Regions of EML1 and EML3 association correlate with sites of trimethylated H3K36 (H3K36me3) enrichment, consistent with regulation of geminivirus chromatin by direct EML targeting.IMPORTANCE Histone PTMs convey information that regulates chromatin compaction and DNA accessibility. Histone reader proteins bind specific PTMs and translate their effects by modifying chromatin and/or by recruiting effectors that alter chromatin structure or activity. In this study, CaLCuV was used to characterize the activities of two Arabidopsis Agenet domain histone readers, EML1 and EML3. We show that eml1 mutants are hypersusceptible to CaLCuV, whereas eml3 plants are more tolerant of infection than wild-type plants. We also demonstrate that EML1 and EML3 associate with histones and viral chromatin in planta and that both proteins bind peptides containing H3K36, a PTM associated with active gene expression. Consistent with antiviral activity, EML1 suppresses CaLCuV gene expression and reduces Pol II access to viral chromatin. By linking EML1 and EML3 to pathogenesis, these studies have expanded our knowledge of histone reader proteins and uncovered an additional level of viral chromatin regulation.