Truncation of Histone H2A’s C-terminal Tail, as Is Typical for Ni(II)-Assisted Specific Peptide Bond Hydrolysis, Has Gene Expression Altering Effects

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Nickel(II), capable of transforming cells and causing tumors in humans and animals, has been previously shown by us to mediate hydrolytic truncation of histone H2A’s C-terminal tail by 8 amino acids in both cell-free and cell culture systems. Since H2A’s C-tail is involved in maintaining chromatin structure, such truncation might alter this structure and affect gene expression. To test the latter possibility, we transfected cultured T-REx 293 human embryonic kidney cells with plasmids expressing either wild type (wt) or truncated (q) histone H2A proteins, which were either untagged or N-terminally tagged with fluorescent proteins. Each histone variant was found to be incorporated into chromatin at 24 and 48 hr post-transfection. Cells transfected with the untagged plasmids were tested for gene expression by microarray and real-time PCR. Evaluation of the results for over 21,000 genes using the multidimensional scaling and hierarchical clustering methods revealed significant differences in expression of numerous genes between the q-H2A and wt-H2A transfectants. Many of the differentially expressed genes, including BAZ2A, CLDN18, CYP51A1, GFR, GIPC2, HMGB1, IRF7, JAK3, PSIP1, and VEGF, are cancer-related genes. The results thus demonstrate the potential of q-H2A to contribute to the process of carcinogenesis through epigenetic mechanisms.

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