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  1. BEN domain–containing proteins are emerging rapidly as an important class of factors involved in modulating gene expression, yet the molecular basis of how they regulate chromatin function and transcription remains to be established. BEND3 is a quadruple BEN domain–containing protein that associates with heterochromatin and functions as a transcriptional repressor. We find that BEND3 is highly expressed in pluripotent cells, and the induction of differentiation results in the down-regulation of BEND3. The removal of BEND3 from pluripotent cells results in cells exhibiting upregulation of the differentiation-inducing gene expression signature. We find that BEND3 binds to the promoters of differentiation-associated factors and key cell cycle regulators, including CDKN1A , encoding the cell cycle inhibitor p21, and represses the expression of differentiation-associated genes by enhancing H3K27me3 decoration at these promoters. Our results support a model in which transcription repression mediated by BEND3 is essential for normal development and to prevent differentiation.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  2. Heterochromatic domains are enriched with repressive histone marks, including histone H3 lysine 9 methylation, written by lysine methyltransferases (KMTs). The pre-replication complex protein, origin recognition complex-associated (ORCA/LRWD1), preferentially localizes to heterochromatic regions in post-replicated cells. Its role in heterochromatin organization remained elusive. ORCA recognizes methylated H3K9 marks and interacts with repressive KMTs, including G9a/GLP and Suv39H1 in a chromatin context-dependent manner. Single-molecule pull-down assays demonstrate that ORCA-ORC (Origin Recognition Complex) and multiple H3K9 KMTs exist in a single complex and that ORCA stabilizes H3K9 KMT complex. Cells lacking ORCA show alterations in chromatin architecture, with significantly reduced H3K9 di- and tri-methylation at specific chromatin sites. Changes in heterochromatin structure due to loss of ORCA affect replication timing, preferentially at the late-replicating regions. We demonstrate that ORCA acts as a scaffold for the establishment of H3K9 KMT complex and its association and activity at specific chromatin sites is crucial for the organization of heterochromatin structure.