Histone H3 tail positioning and acetylation by the c-Myb but not the v-Myb DNA-binding SANT domain


  • X. Mo
  • E. Kowenz-Leutz
  • Y. Laumonnier
  • H. Xu
  • A. Leutz


  • Genes & Development


  • Genes Dev 19 (20): 2447-2457


  • The c-Myb transcription factor coordinates proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic precursor cells. Myb has three consecutive N-terminal SANT-type repeat domains (R1, R2, R3), two of which (R2, R3) form the DNA-binding domain (DBD). Three amino acid substitutions in R2 alter the way Myb regulates genes and determine the leukemogenicity of the retrovirally transduced v-Myb oncogene. The molecular mechanism of how these mutations unleash the leukemogenic potential of Myb is unknown. Here we demonstrate that the c-Myb-DBD binds to the N-terminal histone tails of H3 and H3.3. C-Myb binding facilitates histone tail acetylation, which is mandatory during activation of prevalent differentiation genes in conjunction with CCAAT enhancer-binding proteins (C/EBP). Leukemogenic mutations in v-Myb eliminate the interaction with H3 and acetylation of H3 tails and abolish activation of endogenous differentiation genes. In primary v-myb-transformed myeloblasts, pharmacologic enhancement of H3 acetylation restored activation of differentiation genes and induced cell differentiation. Our data link a novel chromatin function of c-Myb with lineage-specific expression of differentiation genes and relate the loss of this function with the leukemic conversion of Myb.