The Suv39h1 and Suv39h2 histone lysine methyltransferases are hallmark enzymes at mammalian heterochromatin. We show here that the mouse Suv39h2 enzyme differs from Suv39h1 by containing an N-terminal basic domain that facilitates retention at mitotic chromatin and provides an additional affinity for major satellite repeat RNA. To analyze an RNA-dependent interaction with chromatin, we purified native nucleosomes from mouse ES cells and detect that Suv39h1 and Suv39h2 exclusively associate with poly-nucleosomes. This association was attenuated upon RNaseH incubation and entirely lost upon RNaseA digestion of native chromatin. Major satellite repeat transcripts remain chromatin-associated and have a secondary structure that favors RNA:DNA hybrid formation. Together, these data reveal an RNA-mediated mechanism for the stable chromatin interaction of the Suv39h KMT and suggest a function for major satellite noncoding RNA in the organization of an RNA-nucleosome scaffold as the underlying structure of mouse heterochromatin.
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