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  1. The histone demethylase KDM5A erases histone H3 lysine 4 methylation, which is involved in transcription and DNA damage responses (DDRs). While DDR functions of KDM5A have been identified, how KDM5A recognizes DNA lesion sites within chromatin is unknown. Here, we identify two factors that act upstream of KDM5A to promote its association with DNA damage sites. We have identified a noncanonical poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR)–binding region unique to KDM5A. Loss of the PAR-binding region or treatment with PAR polymerase (PARP) inhibitors (PARPi’s) blocks KDM5A–PAR interactions and DNA repair functions of KDM5A. The histone variant macroH2A1.2 is also specifically required for KDM5A recruitment and function at DNA damage sites, including homology-directed repair of DNA double-strand breaks and repression of transcription at DNA breaks. Overall, this work reveals the importance of PAR binding and macroH2A1.2 in KDM5A recognition of DNA lesion sites that drive transcriptional and repair activities at DNA breaks within chromatin that are essential for maintaining genome integrity.

  2. DNA methylation is a prevalent epigenetic modification involved in regulating a number of essential cellular processes, including genomic accessibility and transcriptional outcomes. As such, aberrant alterations in global DNA methylation patterns have been associated with a growing number of disease conditions. Nevertheless, the full mechanisms by which DNA methylation information is interpreted and translated into genomic responses is not yet fully understood. Methyl-CpG binding proteins (MBPs) function as important mediators of this essential process by selectively reading DNA methylation signals and translating this information into down-stream cellular outcomes. The Cys2His2 zinc finger scaffold is one of the most abundant DNA binding motifs found within human transcription factors, yet only a few zinc finger containing proteins capable of conferring selectivity for mCpG over CpG sites have been characterized. This review summarizes our current structural understanding for the mechanisms by which the zinc finger MBPs evaluated to date read this essential epigenetic mark. Further, some of the biological implications for mCpG readout elicited by this family of MBPs are discussed.