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Open Access Short Report

Tousled kinase TLK1B mediates chromatin assembly in conjunction with Asf1 regardless of its kinase activity

Arrigo De Benedetti

Author Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA 71130, USA

BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:68  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-68

Published: 11 March 2010

Abstract

Background

The Tousled Like Kinases (TLKs) are involved in chromatin dynamics, including DNA replication and repair, transcription, and chromosome segregation. Indeed, the first two TLK1 substrates were identified as the histone H3 and Asf1 (a histone H3/H4 chaperone), which immediately suggested a function in chromatin remodeling. However, despite the straightforward assumption that TLK1 acts simply by phosphorylating its substrates and hence modifying their activity, TLK1 also acts as a chaperone. In fact, a kinase-dead (KD) mutant of TLK1B is functional in stimulating chromatin assembly in vitro. However, subtle effects of Asf1 phosphorylation are more difficult to probe in chromatin assembly assays. Not until very recently was the Asf1 site phosphorylated by TLK1 identified. This has allowed for probing directly the functionality of a site-directed mutant of Asf1 in chromatin assembly assays.

Findings

Addition of either wt or non-phosphorylatable mutant Asf1 to nuclear extract stimulates chromatin assembly on a plasmid. Similarly, TLK1B-KD stimulates chromatin assembly and it synergizes in reactions with supplemental Asf1 (wt or non-phosphorylatable mutant).

Conclusions

Although the actual function of TLKs as mediators of Asf1 activity cannot be easily studied in vivo, particularly since in mammalian cells there are two TLK genes and two Asf1 genes, we were able to study specifically the stimulation of chromatin assembly in vitro. In such assays, clearly the TLK1 kinase activity was not critical, as neither a non-phosphorylatable Asf1 nor use of the TLK1B-KD impaired the stimulation of nucleosome formation.