The Inhibitor of Growth (ING) tumor suppressors are implicated in oncogenesis, control of DNA damage repair, cellular senescence and apoptosis. All members of the ING family contain unique amino-terminal regions and a carboxy- terminal plant homeodomain (PHD) finger. While the amino-terminal domains associate with a number of protein effectors including distinct components of histone deacetylase (HDAC) and histone acetyltransferase (HAT) complexes, the PHD finger binds strongly and specifically to histone H3 trimethylated at lysine 4 (H3K4me3). In this review we describe the molecular mechanism of H3K4me3 recognition by the ING1-5 PHD fingers, analyze the determinants of the histone specificity and compare the biological activities and structures within subsets of PHD fingers. The atomic-resolution structures of the ING PHD fingers in complex with a H3K4me3 peptide reveal that the histone tail is bound in a large and deep binding site encompassing nearly one-third of the protein surface. An extensive network of intermolecular hydrogen bonds, hydrophobic and cation-π contacts, and complementary surface interactions coordinate the first six residues of the H3K4me3 peptide. The trimethylated Lys4 occupies an elongated groove, formed by the highly conserved aromatic and hydrophobic residues of the PHD finger, whereas the adjacent groove accommodates Arg2. The two grooves are connected by a narrow channel, the small size of which defines the PHD fingers specificity, excluding interactions with other modified histone peptides. Binding of the ING PHD fingers to H3K4me3 plays a critical role in regulating chromatin acetylation. The ING proteins function as tethering molecules that physically link the HDAC and HAT enzymatic complexes to chromatin. In this review we also highlight progress recently made in understanding the molecular basis underlying biological and tumorigenic activities of the ING tumor suppressors.
Keywords: Plant homeodomain, PHD finger, ING tumor suppressor, histone, H3K4me3, structure
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