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The BET protein FSH functionally interacts with ASH1 to orchestrate global gene activity in Drosophila

Tobias Kockmann1, Moritz Gerstung123, Tommy Schlumpf1, Zhu Xhinzhou1, Daniel Hess4, Niko Beerenwinkel12, Christian Beisel1 and Renato Paro15*

Author Affiliations

1 ETH Zurich, Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE), Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

2 SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Lausanne, Switzerland

3 Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, CB10 1SA UK

4 Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Maulbeerstrasse 66, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

5 Faculty of Science, Klingelbergstrasse 50, 4056 Basel, Switzerland

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Genome Biology 2013, 14:R18  doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-2-r18

Published: 25 February 2013



The question of how cells re-establish gene expression states after cell division is still poorly understood. Genetic and molecular analyses have indicated that Trithorax group (TrxG) proteins are critical for the long-term maintenance of active gene expression states in many organisms. A generally accepted model suggests that TrxG proteins contribute to maintenance of transcription by protecting genes from inappropriate Polycomb group (PcG)-mediated silencing, instead of directly promoting transcription.

Results and discussion

Here we report a physical and functional interaction in Drosophila between two members of the TrxG, the histone methyltransferase ASH1 and the bromodomain and extraterminal family protein FSH. We investigated this interface at the genome level, uncovering a widespread co-localization of both proteins at promoters and PcG-bound intergenic elements. Our integrative analysis of chromatin maps and gene expression profiles revealed that the observed ASH1-FSH binding pattern at promoters is a hallmark of active genes. Inhibition of FSH-binding to chromatin resulted in global down-regulation of transcription. In addition, we found that genes displaying marks of robust PcG-mediated repression also have ASH1 and FSH bound to their promoters.


Our data strongly favor a global coactivator function of ASH1 and FSH during transcription, as opposed to the notion that TrxG proteins impede inappropriate PcG-mediated silencing, but are dispensable elsewhere. Instead, our results suggest that PcG repression needs to overcome the transcription-promoting function of ASH1 and FSH in order to silence genes.

Drosophila melanogaster; Trithorax group (TrxG); Absent, small, or homeotic discs 1 protein (ASH1), [Swiss-Prot:Q9VW15]; Female sterile (1) homeotic protein (FSH), [Swiss-Prot:P13709]; transcriptional regulation; epigenetic gene control