Restriction of retrotransposon mobilization in Schizosaccharomyces pombe by transcriptional silencing and higher-order chromatin organization

Heather E. Murton, Patrick J.R. Grady, Tsun Ho Chan, Hugh P. Cam, Simon K. Whitehall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Uncontrolled propagation of retrotransposons is potentially detrimental to host genome integrity. Therefore, cells have evolved surveillance mechanisms to restrict the mobility of these elements. In Schizosaccharomyces pombe the Tf2 LTR retrotransposons are transcriptionally silenced and are also clustered in the nucleus into structures termed Tf bodies. Here we describe the impact of silencing and clustering on the mobility of an endogenous Tf2 element. Deletion of genes such as set1+ (histone H3 lysine 4 methyl-transferase) or abp1+ (CENP-B homolog) that both alleviate silencing and clustering, result in a corresponding increase in mobilization. Furthermore, expression of constitutively active Sre1, a transcriptional activator of Tf2 elements, also alleviates clustering and induces mobilization. In contrast, clustering is not disrupted by loss of the HIRA histone chaperone, despite high levels of expression, and in this background, mobilization frequency is only marginally increased. Thus, mutations that compromise transcriptional silencing but not Tf bodies are insufficient to drive mobilization. Furthermore, analyses of mutant alleles that separate the transcriptional repression and clustering functions of Set1 are consistent with control of Tf2 propagation via a combination of silencing and spatial organization. Our results indicate that host surveillance mechanisms operate at multiple levels to restrict Tf2 retrotransposon mobilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1669-1678
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Peter Espenshade and Tim Humphrey for providing strains and Henry Levin for the Tf IN antibody. This work was supported by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council doctoral training award to H.E.M. H.P.C.’s research is supported by the Boston College Ignite Fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Murton et al.


  • Higher-order chromatin organization
  • Retrotransposition
  • Schizosaccharomyces pombe
  • Tf2 LTR retrotransposons
  • Transcriptional silencing


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