The importance of histone lysine methylation is well established in health, disease, early development, aging, and cancer. However, the potential role of histone H3 methylation in regulating gene expression in response to extended periods of oxygen deprivation (anoxia) in a natural, anoxia-tolerant model system is underexplored. Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) can tolerate and survive three months of absolute anoxia and recover without incurring detrimental cellular damage, mainly by reducing the overall metabolic rate by 90% when compared to normoxia. Stringent regulation of gene expression is a vital aspect of metabolic rate depression in red-eared sliders, and as such we examined the anoxia-responsive regulation of histone lysine methylation in the liver during 5 h and 20 h anoxia exposure. Interestingly, this is the first study to illustrate the existence of histone lysine methyltransferases (HKMTs) and corresponding histone H3 lysine methylation levels in the liver of anoxia-tolerant red-eared sliders. In brief, H3K4me1, a histone mark associated with active transcription, and two corresponding histone lysine methyltransferases that modify H3K4me1 site, significantly increased in response to anoxia. On the contrary, H3K27me1, another transcriptionally active histone mark, significantly decreased during 20 h anoxia, and a transcriptionally repressive histone mark, H3K9me3, and the corresponding KMTs, similarly increased during 20 h anoxia. Overall, the results suggest a dynamic regulation of histone H3 lysine methylation in the liver of red-eared sliders that could theoretically aid in the selective upregulation of genes that are necessary for anoxia survival, while globally suppressing others to conserve energy.

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Keywords Anoxia, Epigenetics, Histone H3 lysine methylation, Histone lysine methyltransferases, MRD, Trachemys scripta elegans
Persistent URL
Journal Gene
Wijenayake, S. (Sanoji), Hawkins, L.J. (Liam J.), & Storey, K. (2018). Dynamic regulation of six histone H3 lysine (K) methyltransferases in response to prolonged anoxia exposure in a freshwater turtle. Gene, 649, 50–57. doi:10.1016/j.gene.2018.01.086