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Caenorhabditis elegans SET1/COMPASS Maintains Germline Identity by Preventing Transcriptional Deregulation Across Generations.


Chromatin regulators contribute to the maintenance of the germline transcriptional program. In the absence of SET-2, the Caenorhabditis elegans homolog of the SET1/COMPASS H3 Lys4 (H3K4) methyltransferase, animals show transgenerational loss of germline identity, leading to sterility. To identify transcriptional signatures associated with progressive loss of fertility, we performed expression profiling of set-2 mutant germlines across generations. We identify a subset of genes whose misexpression is first observed in early generations, a step we refer to as priming; their misexpression then further progresses in late generations, as animals reach sterility. Analysis of misregulated genes shows that down-regulation of germline genes, expression of somatic transcriptional programs, and desilencing of the X-chromosome are concurrent events leading to loss of germline identity in both early and late generations. Upregulation of transcription factor LIN-15B, the C/EBP homolog CEBP-1, and TGF-β pathway components strongly contribute to loss of fertility, and RNAi inactivation of cebp-1 and TGF-β/Smad signaling delays the onset of sterility, showing they individually contribute to maintenance of germ cell identity. Our approach therefore identifies genes and pathways whose misexpression actively contributes to the loss of germ cell fate. More generally, our data shows how loss of a chromatin regulator in one generation leads to transcriptional changes that are amplified over subsequent generations, ultimately leading to loss of appropriate cell fate.

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