Research Papers:

The JmjN domain as a dimerization interface and a targeted inhibitor of KDM4 demethylase activity

May Levin, Michal Stark and Yehuda G. Assaraf _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:16861-16882. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24717

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May Levin1, Michal Stark1 and Yehuda G. Assaraf1

1The Fred Wyszkowski Cancer Research Laboratory, Department of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 3200003, Israel

Correspondence to:

Yehuda G. Assaraf, email: [email protected]

Keywords: KDM4 subfamily; JmjN domain; dimerization; histone demethylases; chromatin

Received: December 23, 2017     Accepted: February 25, 2018     Published: March 30, 2018


Histone methylation is regulated to shape the epigenome by modulating DNA compaction, thus playing central roles in fundamental chromatin-based processes including transcriptional regulation, DNA repair and cell proliferation. Histone methylation is erased by demethylases including the well-established KDM4 subfamily members, however, little is known about their dimerization capacity and its impact on their demethylase activity. Using the powerful bimolecular fluorescence complementation technique, we herein show the in situ formation of human KDM4A and KDM4C homodimers and heterodimers in nuclei of live transfectant cells and evaluate their H3K9me3 demethylation activity. Using size exclusion HPLC as well as Western blot analysis, we show that endogenous KDM4C undergoes dimerization under physiological conditions. Importantly, we identify the JmjN domain as the KDM4C dimerization interface and pin-point specific charged residues therein to be essential for this dimerization. We further demonstrate that KDM4A/C dimerization is absolutely required for their demethylase activity which was abolished by the expression of free JmjN peptides. In contrast, KDM4B does not dimerize and functions as a monomer, and hence was not affected by free JmjN expression. KDM4 proteins are overexpressed in numerous malignancies and their pharmacological inhibition or depletion in cancer cells was shown to impair tumor cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis. Thus, the KDM4 dimer-interactome emerging from the present study bears potential implications for cancer therapeutics via selective inhibition of KDM4A/C demethylase activity using JmjN-based peptidomimetics.

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