Intestinal differentiation involves cleavage of histone H3 N-terminal tails by multiple proteases

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The proteolytic cleavage of histone tails, also termed histone clipping, has been described as a mechanism for permanent removal of post-translational modifications (PTMs) from histone proteins. Such activity has been ascribed to ensure regulatory function in key cellular processes such as differentiation, senescence and transcriptional control, for which different histone-specific proteases have been described. However, all these studies were exclusively performed using cell lines cultured in vitro and no clear evidence that histone clipping is regulated in vivo has been reported. Here we show that histone H3 N-terminal tails undergo extensive cleavage in the differentiated cells of the villi in mouse intestinal epithelium. Combining biochemical methods, 3D organoid cultures and in vivo approaches, we demonstrate that intestinal H3 clipping is the result of multiple proteolytic activities. We identified Trypsins and Cathepsin L as specific H3 tail proteases active in small intestinal differentiated cells and showed that their proteolytic activity is differentially affected by the PTM pattern of histone H3 tails. Together, our findings provide in vivo evidence of H3 tail proteolysis in mammalian tissues, directly linking H3 clipping to cell differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-804
Number of pages14
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 25 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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