hnRNP K Coordinates Transcriptional Silencing by SETDB1 in Embryonic Stem Cells

Peter J. Thompson, Vered Dulberg, Kyung Mee Moon, Leonard J. Foster, Carol Chen, Mohammad M. Karimi, Matthew C. Lorincz

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Retrotransposition of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) poses a substantial threat to genome stability. Transcriptional silencing of a subset of these parasitic elements in early mouse embryonic and germ cell development is dependent upon the lysine methyltransferase SETDB1, which deposits H3K9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) and the co-repressor KAP1, which binds SETDB1 when SUMOylated. Here we identified the transcription co-factor hnRNP K as a novel binding partner of the SETDB1/KAP1 complex in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) and show that hnRNP K is required for ERV silencing. RNAi-mediated knockdown of hnRNP K led to depletion of H3K9me3 at ERVs, concomitant with de-repression of proviral reporter constructs and specific ERV subfamilies, as well as a cohort of germline-specific genes directly targeted by SETDB1. While hnRNP K recruitment to ERVs is dependent upon KAP1, SETDB1 binding at these elements requires hnRNP K. Furthermore, an intact SUMO conjugation pathway is necessary for SETDB1 recruitment to proviral chromatin and depletion of hnRNP K resulted in reduced SUMOylation at ERVs. Taken together, these findings reveal a novel regulatory hierarchy governing SETDB1 recruitment and in turn, transcriptional silencing in mESCs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004933
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Thompson, P. J., Dulberg, V., Moon, K. M., Foster, L. J., Chen, C., Karimi, M. M., & Lorincz, M. C. (2015). hnRNP K Coordinates Transcriptional Silencing by SETDB1 in Embryonic Stem Cells. PLoS Genetics, 11(1), [e1004933].