, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 93–106 | Cite as

Glimpses of evolution: heterochromatic histone H3K9 methyltransferases left its marks behind

  • Veiko Krauss


In eukaryotes, histone methylation is an epigenetic mechanism associated with a variety of functions related to gene regulation or genomic stability. Recently analyzed H3K9 methyltransferases (HMTases) as SUV39H1, Clr4p, DIM-5, Su(var)3-9 or SUVH2 are responsible for the establishment of histone H3 lysine 9 methylation (H3K9me), which is intimately connected with heterochromatinization. In this review, available data will be evaluated concerning (1) the phylogenetic distribution of H3K9me as heterochromatin-specific histone modification and its evolutionary stability in relation to other epigenetic marks, (2) known families of H3K9 methyltransferases, (3) their responsibility for the formation of constitutive heterochromatin and (4) the evolution of Su(var)3-9-like and SUVH-like H3K9 methyltransferases. Compilation and parsimony analysis reveal that histone H3K9 methylation is, next to histone deacetylation, the evolutionary most stable heterochromatic mark, which is established by at least two subfamilies of specialized heterochromatic HMTases in almost all studied eukaryotes.


Cladistic analysis Clr4p DIM-5 H3K9 methyltransferases Heterochromatin Histone methylation Molecular evolution Su(var)3-9 SUV39H1 SUVH2 



I would like to thank Dr Gunter Reuter for critical reading of the manuscript. I gratefully acknowledge the sequencing of the yet unpublished genomes of Coprinus cinereus, Rhizopus oryzae, Nematostella vectensis, Acropora millepora, Hydra magnipapillata, Schistosoma mansoni, Aplysia californica, Pediculus humanus, Nasonia vitripennis, Tribolium castaneum and Trichinella spiralis. Research on evolution of Su(var)3-9-like proteins herein was funded by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Genetics, Institute for Biology IIUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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