Histone Hypervariants H2A.Z.1 and H2A.Z.2 Play Independent and Context-Specific Roles in Neuronal Activity-Induced Transcription of Arc/ Arg3.1 and Other Immediate Early Genes


The histone variant H2A.Z is an essential and conserved regulator of eukaryotic gene transcription. However, the exact role of this histone in the transcriptional process remains perplexing. In vertebrates, H2A.Z has two hypervariants, H2A.Z.1 and H2A.Z.2, that have almost identical sequences except for three amino acid residues. Due to such similarity, functional specificity of these hypervariants in neurobiological processes, if any, remain largely unknown. In this study with dissociated rat cortical neurons, we asked if H2A.Z hypervariants have distinct functions in regulating basal and activity-induced gene transcription. Hypervariant-specific RNAi and microarray analyses revealed that H2A.Z.1 and H2A.Z.2 regulate basal expression of largely nonoverlapping gene sets, including genes that code for several synaptic proteins. In response to neuronal activity, rapid transcription of our model gene Arc is impaired by depletion of H2A.Z.2, but not H2A.Z.1. This impairment is partially rescued by codepletion of the H2A.Z chaperone, ANP32E. In contrast, under a different context (after 48 h of tetrodotoxin, TTX), rapid transcription of Arc is impaired by depletion of either hypervariant. Such context-dependent roles of H2A.Z hypervariants, as revealed by our multiplexed gene expression assays, are also evident with several other immediate early genes, where regulatory roles of these hypervariants vary from gene to gene under different conditions. Together, our data suggest that H2A.Z hypervariants have context-specific roles that complement each other to mediate activity-induced neuronal gene transcription.

Arc, epigenetics, H2A.Z, H2A.Z.1, H2A.Z.2, histone