Previously, we have shown that loss of the histone 3 lysine 27 (H3K27) monomethyltransferases ARABIDOPSIS TRITHORAX-RELATED 5 (ATXR5) and ATXR6 (ATXR6) results in the overreplication of heterochromatin. Here we show that the overreplication results in DNA damage and extensive chromocenter remodeling into unique structures we have named “overreplication-associated centers” (RACs). RACs have a highly ordered structure with an outer layer of condensed heterochromatin, an inner layer enriched in the histone variant H2AX, and a low-density core containing foci of phosphorylated H2AX (a marker of double-strand breaks) and the DNA-repair enzyme RAD51. atxr5,6 mutants are strongly affected by mutations in DNA repair, such as ATM and ATR. Because of its dense packaging and repetitive DNA sequence, heterochromatin is a challenging environment in which to repair DNA damage. Previous work in animals has shown that heterochromatic breaks are translocated out of the heterochromatic domain for repair. Our results show that atxr5,6 mutants use a variation on this strategy for repairing heterochromatic DNA damage. Rather than being moved to adjacent euchromatic regions, as in animals, heterochromatin undergoes large-scale remodeling to create a compartment with low chromatin density.
Wei Feng, Christopher Hale, Shawn Cokus, Steven E. Jacobsen, and Scott D. Michaels. 2017. Large-scale heterochromatin remodeling linked to over replication-associated DNA damage. PNAS. 114(2) 406-11