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Volume 2 Issue 2
May  2020
Article Contents


Functional analysis of the methyltransferase SMYD in the single-cell model organism Tetrahymena thermophila

  • Received Date: 2019-08-15
    Accepted Date: 2019-10-15
    Published online: 2020-03-05
  • Edited by Jiamei Li.
  • Lysine methylation of histones and non-histones plays a pivotal role in diverse cellular processes. The SMYD (SET and MYND domain) family methyltransferases can methylate various histone and non-histone substrates in mammalian systems, implicated in HSP90 methylation, myofilament organization, cancer inhibition, and gene transcription regulation. To resolve controversies concerning SMYD's substrates and functions, we studied SMYD1 (TTHERM_00578660), the only homologue of SMYD in the unicellular eukaryote Tetrahymena thermophila. We epitope-tagged SMYD1, and analyzed its localization and interactome. We also characterized ΔSMYD1 cells, focusing on the replication and transcription phenotype. Our results show that: (1) SMYD1 is present in both cytoplasm and transcriptionally active macronucleus and shuttles between cytoplasm and macronucleus, suggesting its potential association with both histone and non-histone substrates; (2) SMYD1 is involved in DNA replication and regulates transcription of metabolism-related genes; (3) HSP90 is a potential substrate for SMYD1 and it may regulate target selection of HSP90, leading to pleiotropic effects in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus.
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Functional analysis of the methyltransferase SMYD in the single-cell model organism Tetrahymena thermophila

  • 1. Institute of Evolution and Marine Biodiversity, Ocean University of China, Qingdao 266003, China
  • 2. Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
  • 3. Laboratory for Marine Biology and Biotechnology, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao 266003, China

Abstract: Lysine methylation of histones and non-histones plays a pivotal role in diverse cellular processes. The SMYD (SET and MYND domain) family methyltransferases can methylate various histone and non-histone substrates in mammalian systems, implicated in HSP90 methylation, myofilament organization, cancer inhibition, and gene transcription regulation. To resolve controversies concerning SMYD's substrates and functions, we studied SMYD1 (TTHERM_00578660), the only homologue of SMYD in the unicellular eukaryote Tetrahymena thermophila. We epitope-tagged SMYD1, and analyzed its localization and interactome. We also characterized ΔSMYD1 cells, focusing on the replication and transcription phenotype. Our results show that: (1) SMYD1 is present in both cytoplasm and transcriptionally active macronucleus and shuttles between cytoplasm and macronucleus, suggesting its potential association with both histone and non-histone substrates; (2) SMYD1 is involved in DNA replication and regulates transcription of metabolism-related genes; (3) HSP90 is a potential substrate for SMYD1 and it may regulate target selection of HSP90, leading to pleiotropic effects in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus.



    Phylogenetic analysis of SMYD family methyltransferases

  • There are five SMYD homologs (SMYD1-5) in vertebrates, such as Danio rerio, Xenopus (Silurana) tropicalis, Gallus gallus, Mus musculus, Bos taurus, Bos mutu, Pan troglodytes, Pan paniscus, and Homo sapiens. The SMYD family was divided into two main clades (Fig. 1). One branch consisted of SMYD1, 2 and 3, in which SMYD1 clustered with SMYD2 first (78% ML bootstrap support) forming a sister group to SMYD3 (89% ML). The other branch contained SMYD4 and SMYD5 (29% ML). The monophyly of SMYD1-5 was maximally supported (100% ML). This result was consistent with the domain similarity of the SMYD family (Spellmon et al. 2015): (1) SMYD1-3 shared similar domains, including the N terminal SET domain, MYND domain, and the C-terminal tetratricopeptide repeats (TPR) (Jiang et al. 2011; Sirinupong et al. 2010, 2011); (2) the domain structure of SMYD4 and SMYD5 was more divergent (Spellmon et al. 2015); SMYD4 had an extra TPR domain on its N terminus and an extended C-terminal domain, while SMYD5 lacked the C-terminal domain. The sequence differences between SMYD4 and SMYD5 partially contributed to the low branch supporting value (29% ML).

    In contrast to mammals, only one SMYD homologue is present in the genomes of many ciliates and plants (Spellmon et al. 2015). Ciliate SMYD and plant SMYD formed two well-separated clades (70% and 93% ML, respectively), indicating their diverged evolutionary paths from mammalian homologues. The clustering of ciliate SMYD also reflected the phylogenetic relationship of the constituent species which are divided between two fully supported sister branches: the oligohymenophoreans Paramecium tetraurelia and Tetrahymena thermophila and the hypotrichs Stylonychia lemnae and Oxytricha trifallax (Gao et al. 2016).

  • Localization and expression of SMYD protein in Tetrahymena thermophila

  • The expression levels of SMYD1 during the life cycle of Tetrahymena thermophila were evaluated by RT-PCR (Fig. 2a). As previously reported (Miao et al. 2009), SMYD1 is expressed during vegetative, starvation, and conjugation stages; in the present study, SMYD1 expression was highest during conjugation (Fig. 2a); however, we mainly focus on SMYD1's function at the vegetative stage. To detect its cellular localization, we initially generated a somatic SMYD1-CHA strain by introducing a short sequence encoding the hemagglutinin (HA) tag to the C-terminus of the SMYD1 gene, but we failed to detect any immunofluorescence signal, probably due to the low expression level of SMYD1 during the vegetative stage (Fig. 2a). To facilitate tracking SMYD1's distribution, an SMYD1 overexpression mutant was generated (SMYD1-CHA-overexpression) by placing SMYD1 and the C-terminal HA tag coding sequence under the cadmium-inducible MTT1 promoter (Fig. 2b). During the vegetative stage, SMYD1 was localized in both the cytoplasm and the macronucleus (Fig. 2c). As the confocal microscope scanned different layers of the Tetrahymena cell, SMYD1 showed different localization patterns: in layer 1, signals were mainly in the cytoplasm, and those in the macronucleus were weak; in layer 2, signals in the macronucleus became as strong as those in the cytoplasm; in layer 3, SMYD1 mainly appeared in the macronucleus and on the cell membrane. To remove the interference of SMYD1 signals from the cytoplasm and to reveal the presence of nuclear SMYD1, immunofluorescence staining was carried out on macronuclei purified from SMYD1-CHA-overexpression cells. Strong SMYD1 signals were detected throughout the transcriptionally active macronucleus and on the periphery of the transcriptionally inactive micronucleus (Fig. 2d), corroborating the localization of SMYD1 in the nucleus. The localization of SMYD1 in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus suggests that SMYD1 has the potential to methylate both histone and non-histone substrates (Al-Shar'i and Alnabulsi 2016; Calpena et al. 2015; Tracy et al. 2018).

    Figure 2.  Localization and expression of SMYD1 protein. a Gene expression profile for SMYD1 in wide-type cell. The different time points are shown along the X-axis. Lm stands for growing cells at the density of ~ 3.5 × 105 cells/ml. S3, S9 stands for starved cells (~ 2×105 cells/ml) collected at 3 h and 9 h after starvation, respectively. C3, C9 stands for conjugative cells (equal volumes of CU427 and CU428) collected at 3 h and 9 h after mixing, respectively. The normalized gene expression levels, as previously described (Cheng et al. 2016), are shown along the Y-axis. b Schematic diagram of SMYD1-CHA-overexpression (SMYD1-CHA-OE) plasmid. c SMYD1 signals in different layers of the same SMYD1-CHA-OE cell (vegetative stage) scanned by confocal microscopy. Arrows represent the micronucleus. Layers 1-3 indicate three different layers of the same cell. d SMYD1 signals within the nucleus obtained by nucleus purification. Arrows show the micronucleus. e pulse-labeling of SMYD1-CHA-OE (vegetative stage) cells. 0 h and 1 h stand for SMYD1 signals of cells collected at 0 h and 1 h after the removal of CdCl2, respectively. DAPI, nuclear signals; HA, signals of target protein; merge, combined signals of target protein and nucleus

    To trace the dynamic change of SMYD1 protein, we performed a pulse-chase experiment by transiently inducing the expression of SMYD1 with CdCl2 (Fig. 2e). SMYD1 was initially detected in the cytoplasm immediately after the cadmium induction (0 h), suggesting that SMYD1 was present in the cytoplasm. Signals in the cytoplasm decayed, while the macronuclear signals increased 1 h later (1 h), demonstrating that SMYD1 can shuttle between the cytoplasm and the macronucleus.

  • Phenotypic analysis of ∆SMYD1 cells

  • To reveal SMYD1's functions in Tetrahymena, we generated SMYD1 knockout cells (∆SMYD1) and characterized the phenotype. To investigate the roles of SMYD1 in regulating gene transcription, we carried out RNA-seq analysis in wild type (CU428) and the isogenic ∆SMYD1 cells. In total, 21, 461 well-annotated genes were included, among which 4841 (23%) were up-regulated (> 2-fold) and 1507 (7%) were down-regulated (< 0.5-fold). KEGG pathway analysis (Table 1) revealed that the most affected pathways in ∆SMYD1 cells were a metabolic pathway (ko01100) and biosynthesis of secondary metabolites (ko01110), supporting the assertion that SMYD1 plays important roles in regulating metabolic genes in Tetrahymena. The result of Gene Ontology (GO) term enrichment analysis (Fig. 3) was consistent with that of the KEGG pathway analysis; this revealed the single organism metabolic process as the most enriched pathway for the up-regulated genes in ∆SMYD1 cells. These results suggest that SMYD1 is involved in regulation of metabolism.

    Pathways associated with up-regulated genes
    ko01100Metabolic pathways (98)
    ko01110Biosynthesis of secondary metabolites (52)
    ko01130Biosynthesis of antibiotics (30)
    ko01120Microbial metabolism in diverse environments (25)
    ko01200Carbon metabolism (20)
    ko01230Biosynthesis of amino acids (17)
    ko00970Aminoacyl-tRNA biosynthesis (16)
    ko00230Purine metabolism (13)
    ko00010Glycolysis/gluconeogenesis (12)
    ko04141Protein processing in endoplasmic reticulum (12)
    Pathways associated with down-regulated genes
    ko03008Ribosome biogenesis in eukaryotes (17)
    ko01100Metabolic pathways (16)
    ko04142Lysosome (7)
    ko01110Biosynthesis of secondary metabolites (5)
    ko01130Biosynthesis of antibiotics (4)
    ko00270Cysteine and methionine metabolism (4)
    ko00230Purine metabolism (3)
    ko04141Protein processing in endoplasmic reticulum (3)
    ko01120Microbial metabolism in diverse environments (3)
    ko04113Meiosis-yeast (3)
    Numbers within () correspond to genes mapped onto this pathway

    Table 1.  KEGG pathway analysis for differentially expressed genes in ΔSMYD1 strain

    Figure 3.  GO (GO term: biological process) analysis of up-regulated genes in ∆SMYD1. Different biological processes are shown along the X-axis. Y-axis is the gene ratio. The higher the values, the closer the relationship between the SMYD1 protein and the target process

    To examine if there was DNA replication deficiency in ∆SMYD1 cells, immunofluorescence staining was performed for two indicative markers in the DNA damage response (DDR) system-γH2A.X (phosphorylation form of H2A.X, indicator of double strand DNA breakage) and RPA1 (single strand DNA binding protein, indicator of single strand DNA accumulation) (Gao et al. 2013). There was an increase of γH2A.X levels in ∆SMYD1 cells, similar to the phenotype of the DNA replication deficient strain ∆TXR1 (Gao et al. 2013), indicating accumulation of double strand DNA breakage produced by abnormal DNA replication (Fig. 4a). RPA1 was slightly induced at mRNA (Fig. 4b) and protein (more RPA1 foci) (Fig. 4c, white arrows) levels, weaker than ∆TXR1 cells but stronger than WT cells. Moreover, genes significantly induced in ∆TXR1 cells were mostly up-regulated (though to a more moderate degree) in ∆SMYD1 cells, including many key players in ssDNA sensing/binding, DNA alkylation repair, nucleotide excision repair (NER), mismatch repair (MMR), homologous recombination (HR), and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) (Fig. 4b). Taken together, these results argue that SMYD1 deletion resulted in mild replication stress.

    Figure 4.  Phenotype of ∆SMYD1 cells. a Accumulation of double strand DNA breakage (DSBs) in ∆SMYD1 cells. ∆TXR1, positive control; WT, negative control, wide type; γH2A.X., indicator of double strand DNA breakage, the phosphorylation form of the histone variant H2A.X. b Heat map of relative gene expression for DNA damage response-related genes in ∆SMYD1 cells, normalized against WT cells. ∆TXR1/WT, positive control, data from (Gao et al. 2013); NER, Nucleotide excision repair; MMR, mismatch repair; HR, homologous recombination; NHEJ, non-homologous end joining. Up-regulated genes are the reddest (∆SMYD1/WT > 2) down-regulated genes are the greenest (∆SMYD1/WT < 0.5), constant genes are represented by color between them. c Accumulation of single strand DNA in ∆SMYD1 strain. White arrows show RPA1 foci, indicating the accumulation of single strand DNA in the ∆SMYD1 strain. ∆TXR1, positive control; WT, negative control, wide type; RPA1, indicator of single strand DNA, single strand DNA binding protein; DAPI, nuclear signals; merge, combined signals of the target protein and nucleus. d Growth curve of ∆SMYD1 and WT strains. X-axis, different time points; Y-axis, cell number

    It should be noted that no obvious growth defect was observed for ∆SMYD1 cells, since doubling time of ∆SMYD1 strain (Fig. 4d) showed little difference from that of WT cells (4.4 vs. 4.7 h). This suggested that SMYD1 was not essential for vegetative growth, or SMYD1 deficiency could be successfully coped with by activating the DNA damage responses (Fig. 4b).

  • Interactome of SMYD1 protein

  • To further study the mechanism underlying SMYD1 functions, immunoprecipitation (IP) of SMYD1-CHA-overexpression cells was carried out to assess the interactome of SMYD1 protein (Fig. 5a). Mass spectrometry analysis (Supplementary Table 2) revealed the heat shock protein 90 (HSP90: TTHERM_00080030) as a potential interacting partner with SMYD1, which is consistent with previous studies on mammalian systems (Donlin et al. 2012; Sima and Richter 2018; Spellmon et al. 2017). This mass spectrometry result was corroborated by the silver staining of the IP sample (Fig. 5a), which revealed a ~ 98 kDa band corresponding to the predicted size of HSP90 (blue arrow in Fig. 5a), as well as the bait protein (SMYD1) band (red arrow in Fig. 5a, ~ 53 kDa).

    Figure 5.  Interactome analysis of SMYD1 protein. a Silver staining of the SMYD1-CHA-OE IP sample. Red arrow indicates SMYD1 protein (53 kDa); blue arrow indicates the potential HSP90 protein. WT, wild type (negative control). b Purification of proteins interacting with SMYD1 using gel filtration chromatography. IP sample (without TCA precipitation) of SMYD1-CHA-OE strain was used as input. 21-32, different sized protein complex in different collection tubes: 24-25, protein complex of ~ 150 kDa; 29-32, bait protein of ~ 53 kDa (SMYD1). c Western blot of IP samples for HSP90-Nflag/SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strains with or without Cd2+ induction. SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain with Cd2+ induction was used as negative control. d Co-localization of HSP90 and SMYD1 in Cd2+-induced HSP90-Nflag/SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain. DAPI, nuclear signals; HSP90, HSP90 protein signals, detected by the α-Flag antibody; SMYD1, SMYD1 protein signals, detected by the α-HA antibody; Merge, combined signals of target proteins and nucleus

    To further confirm the interaction between HSP90 and SMYD1, gel filtration chromatography was used to separate proteins in the IP sample of SMYD1-CHA-overexpression cells (Fig. 5b). As a control, the bait protein band (SMYD1) was enriched in fractions 29-32 (calculated size is ~ 53 kDa). It was also enriched in fractions 24 and 25 (calculated size ~ 150 kDa), corresponding to the predicted size of the SMYD1-HSP90 complex. This result raised the possibility of direct interaction between SMYD1 and HSP90. To support this, we introduced a flag tag to the N-terminus of HSP90 in SMYD1-CHA-overexpression cells (HSP90_Nflag/SMYD1-CHA-OE) and carried out the co-precipitation of SMYD1 and HSP90 (Fig. 5c). By performing immunoprecipitation with anti-Flag M2 beads, we detected SMYD1 in the IP sample by the anti-HA antibody at the expected size (~ 53 kDa) (Fig. 5c lane 2). As negative controls, no SMYD1 band was detected without cadmium induction (Fig. 5c, lanes 3 and 4) or in IP samples from cells without flag-tagged HSP90 (Fig. 5c, lanes 5 and 6). These results support the interaction between SMYD1 and HSP90.

    To investigate whether SMYD1 can methylate HSP90, SMYD1 in vitro methyltransferase assay was performed. We only detected a ~ 53 kDa radioactive band (Supplementary Fig. 1, red arrow), representing either the self-methylated SMYD1 or SMYD1 binding of H3-labeled S-adenosylmethionine (SAM). Though we failed to detect any radioactive band of HSP90, the ~ 53 kDa radioactive band provides evidence that SMYD1 protein possesses the methyltransferase activity.


    SMYD homologues in ciliates

  • The phylogenetic position of ciliate SMYD1 was revealed in this study for the first time, on the basis of phylogenetic analysis in metazoans (Calpena et al. 2015; Jiang et al. 2017). Ciliate SMYD1 occupied a basal position in the phylogenetic tree, which is consistent with the early branching position of ciliates in the evolutionary history of eukaryotes (Adl et al. 2012; Sheng et al. 2018; Zhang et al. 2018; Zhao et al. 2018; Zheng et al. 2018), The presence of a single homologue is likely an ancestral state, given that only one homologue was identified in ciliates, while several occur in animals.

    Interestingly, SMYD homologues of the four ciliates included in this study showed relatively low similarity (in the range of 10.4%-41%). This high diversity of ciliate SMYD is consistent with the fact that ciliates underwent radiation after their early branching and harbored a rich pool of morphological and genetic diversities (Chen et al. 2014, 2018, 2019; Guerin et al. 2017; Hamilton et al. 2016; Huang et al. 2018; Luo et al. 2018; Noto and Mochizuki 2017; Wang et al. 2019; Xu et al. 2019a, b; Yan et al. 2018).

  • SMYD is involved in the regulation of metabolism-related genes and DNA replication

  • SMYD proteins in mammals are located in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus, and correspondingly have the ability to methylate both histone and non-histone targets (Brown et al. 2006; Gottlieb et al. 2002; Hamamoto et al. 2004; Huang et al. 2006; Mazur et al. 2014; Tracy et al. 2018; Yi et al. 2017). SMYD1 was also detected in both the cytoplasm and the macronucleus (and possibly micronucleus) in Tetrahymena cells, which is consistent with its localization in mammalian systems.

    The SMYD1 localization in the transcriptionally active macronucleus is consistent with its potential role in regulating gene expression. Extensive studies have pointed out that mammalian SMYD proteins can affect gene accessibility by histone methylation and interaction with transcription factors (Abu-Farha et al. 2008; Chen et al. 2017; Gottlieb et al. 2002). In the current study, we revealed that ciliate SMYD1 is involved in the regulation of metabolism-related genes and consequently plays roles in Tetrahymena metabolism. Therefore, we proposed that functions of mammalian SMYD in cancer development (Giakountis et al. 2017; Hu et al. 2009; Leinhart and Brown 2011; Mazur et al. 2016) might have evolved from the function of SMYD1 in regulating metabolism-related genes in ciliates. However, the underlying mechanism in ciliates is yet to be explored.

    The regulation of DNA replication by SMYD has not been reported before. In this study, we demonstrate that lack of SMYD1 in Tetrahymena causes mild DNA replication stress, manifested by the accumulation of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) and single strand DNA (ssDNA), and activation of DNA damage response.

  • HSP90 is a conserved SMYD substrate

  • HSP90 is an essential chaperone protein involved in a variety of biological processes, including stabilizing proteins against heat stress, stabilizing a quantity of tumor proteins, and enhancing the loading process of small RNAs into Argonaute proteins (Bachman et al. 2018; Karras et al. 2017; Taipale et al. 2010; Woehrer et al. 2015). In mammalian cells, SMYD2 was shown to regulate biological functions of HSP90 by methylating its different domains (Abu-Farha et al. 2011). Our data show that Tetrahymena SMYD1 and HSP90 are both localized in the cytoplasm. More importantly, Tetrahymena SMYD1 can physically interact with HSP90 and may have the capability to catalyze methylation. Thus, we propose that HSP90 is one of the conserved substrates for SMYD methyltransferases. More studies are needed to explore the functions of SMYD in regulating HSP90.

    In conclusion, our study represents the first report of the functions of methyltransferase SMYD in the single-cell model organism Tetrahymena thermophila. We revealed the localization and dynamics of SMYD1 in Tetrahymena cytoplasm and nucleus, and demonstrated the roles of Tetrahymena SMYD1 in DNA replication and transcription regulation. Additionally, we show that accumulating evidence supports the possibility that HSP90 is a conserved SMYD substrate. These findings support a conserved function in ciliate SMYD and shed light on the mechanisms that underlie the roles that SMYD family proteins play in the development of cancer in higher eukaryotes.

Materials and methods

    Phylogenetic analysis of SMYD

  • A total of 47 SMYD amino acid sequences (Table 2) of representative eukaryotic species were downloaded from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Database (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/). Sequences were aligned by MUSCLE 3.7 (Edgar 2004), provided on the web server "Phylogeny.fr Robust Phylogenetic Analysis For The Non-Specialist" (http://phylogeny.lirmm.fr/phylo_cgi/one_task.cgi?task_type=muscle). The alignment was used for the subsequent phylogenetic tree construction.

    Species name and protein nameGenBank accession no.Species name and protein nameGenBank accession no.
    Danio rerio SMYD1NP_001034725Gallus gallus SMYD4NP_001025886
    Xenopus (Silurana) tropicalis SMYD1XP_012811600Mus musculus SMYD4AAH95952
    Gallus gallus SMYD1NP_989486Bos taurus SMYD4XP_005220153
    Mus musculus SMYD1NP_001153599Pan paniscus SMYD4XP_003816904
    Bos taurus SMYD1DAA24603Homo sapiens SMYD4NP_443160
    Pan paniscus SMYD1XP_003805903Drosophila virilis SMYD5XP_002053397
    Homo sapiens SMYD1NP_938015Branchiostoma floridae SMYD5XP_002609030
    Danio rerio SMYD2NP_001013568Xenopus laevis SMYD5NP_001085635
    Xenopus (Silurana) tropicalis SMYD2XP_00293475NP_9380151Danio rerio SMYD5NP_001004614
    Gallus gallus SMYD2NP_001264500Gallus gallus SMYD5NP_001012912
    Mus musculus SMYD2EDL13024Bos taurus SMYD5NP_001073717
    Bos mutus SMYD2NP_001069832Mus musculus SMYD5NP_659167
    Pan troglodytes SMYD2XP_003308794Pan paniscus SMYD5XP_003808242
    Homo sapiens SMYD2NP_064582Homo sapiens SMYD5NP_006053
    Danio rerio SMYD3NP_001032477Stylonychia lemnaeCDW88943
    Xenopus (Silurana) tropicalis SMYD3XP_004914684Oxytricha trifallaxEJY75465
    Gallus gallus SMYD3XP_015139481Paramecium tetraureliaXP_001437474
    Bos mutus SMYD3XP_005216902Tetrahymena thermophilaXP_001022867
    Mus musculus SMYD3NP_081464Volvox carteri f. nagariensisXP_002956692
    Pan paniscus SMYD3XP_514316Physcomitrella patensXP_001778213
    Homo sapiens SMYD3NP_001161212Oryza sativaAAS07242
    Branchiostoma floridae SMYD4XP_002589088Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrataXP_002886136

    Table 2.  Accession numbers of species used in the phylogenetic tree

    A Maximum-Likelihood (ML) tree was constructed with RAxML-HPC2 on XSEDE v 7.2.8 (Stamatakis 2006; Stamatakis et al. 2008), provided by the CIPRES Science Gateway (Miller et al. 2010), using plant species, Volvox carteri f. nagariensis, Physcomitrella patens, Oryza sativa, Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrata and Glycine max, as the outgroup. The MTART model of Protein Substitution Matrix selected by ProtTest 3 (Darriba et al. 2011) and other defaulted parameters were used for the maximum-likelihood (ML) analysis. The robustness of internal branches was estimated by 1000 bootstrap replicates.

  • Strains and culture conditions

  • The wide-type Tetrahymena thermophila strain CU428 (provided by Tetrahymena Stock Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY), from which all mutant strains were derived, was cultured in SPP medium (Orias et al. 1999) at 30 ℃. Cells in mid-exponential growth phase (~ 2×105 cells/ml) were used for subsequent experiments.

  • Generation of the transgenic strains

  • In the current study, 6 constructs, including ∆SMYD1, SMYD1-CHA, ∆SMYD1-RPA1-CHA, SMYD1-CHA-overexpression, and HSP90-Nflag were generated, and all primers used here are listed in Table 3. Construct RPA1-CHA was generated as previously described (Gao et al. 2013). Constructs ∆SMYD1 and SMYD1-CHA were generated according to previous studies (Feng et al. 2017; Liu et al. 2007; Noto et al. 2015). For the SMYD1-CHA-overexpression construct, the target fragments were cloned into the newly constructed CHA-overexpression vectors. CHA-overexpression vectors were generated based on the inducible MTT1 and MTT3 promotors (Cd2+ inducible) to investigate proteins of low expression level. Primers used are shown in Supplementary Table 1. The MTT1-MTT3 region, including the 3′ and 5′ untranslated regions (5.4 kb in total), were amplified with Platinum Tag DNA Polymerase (Invitrogen, 11304-011) and cloned into pBlueScript SK (-) vector. The MTT3 locus was replaced with neo4 coding region, providing the paromomycin resistance for cells. The MTT1 locus was replaced by Flag-HA tag with Sbf I cutting site on its N terminus.

    Italic characters represent the adaptors

    Table 3.  Primers used for plasmid construction and RT-PCR

    All of the above constructs except RPA1-CHA and HSP90-Nflag were introduced into CU428 by standard biolistic transformations (Cassidy-Hanley et al. 1997). RPA1-CHA was introduced into ∆SMYD1 strain, and HSP90-Nflag into SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain, respectively. Paromomycin, Cycloheximide or Blasticidin was used for subsequent transformant selection according to the drug cassette. Complete somatic replacement was validated by quantitative-PCR as previously reported (Zhao et al. 2017).

  • Macronucleus purification

  • SMYD1-CHA-overexpression stain was cultured overnight (~ 18 h) in 1L 1 × SPP containing 0.5 μg/ml CdCl2. Mid-log-phase (~ 2×105 cells/ml) cells were collected and the macronucleus purification was carried out as described (Chen et al. 2016). The purified macronuclei were washed with nuclear wash buffer (50 mmol/L pH 7.4 Tris, 2 mmol/L MgCl2) once and resuspended in 200 μl nuclear wash buffer for subsequent immunofluorescence staining.

  • Immunofluorescence staining

  • A volume of 15 ml of target cells in mid-exponential growth phase was collected and fixed in 2% paraformaldehyde (diluted with 1 × PBS). Permeabilization was then accomplished with 0.4% Triton X-100 (diluted with 1 × PBS), after which antibodies (details in Table 4) were incubated with cells (Gao et al. 2013; Liu et al. 2007). Digital images were captured using an Olympus BX43 microscope and an Olympus DP73 camera.

    AntibodydilutionIncubation condition
    Primary antibodyα-HA (Rabbit monoclonal, Cell Signaling, 3724S)1:20004 ℃, overnight
    α-γH2A.X(Mouse monoclonal, Millipore, 05636)1:5000RT, 2 h
    α-Flag (Mouse monoclonal, Sigma, F1804)1:50004 ℃, overnight
    Secondary antibodyGoat Anti Mouse 555 IgG (Invitrogen, A32727)1:5000RT, 1 h
    Goat Anti Rabbit 555 IgG (Invitrogen, A27017)1:5000RT, 1 h
    Goat Anti Rabbit 488 IgG (Invitrogen, A32731)1:5000RT, 1 h

    Table 4.  Antibodies for immunofluorescence staining

  • Immunoprecipitation and quantitative liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MC) analysis

  • SMYD1-CHA-overexpression cells were cultured overnight in 800 ml 1 × SPP containing 0.5 μg/ml CdCl2. Cells at mid-log phase were collected by centrifugation and immunoprecipitation (IP, details shown in Supplementary Methods) was carried out, after which the IP sample was sent to Proteomics Resource Facility (Department of Pathology, University of Michigan) for LC-MC analysis.

    The HSP90-Nflag/SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain was cultured overnight in 800 ml 1 × SPP with or without 0.5 μg/ml CdCl2. At the same time, the SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain was cultured overnight in 800 ml 1 × SPP as a negative control. IP was carried out on these strains as described above. IP samples were used for western blotting with primary antibodies α-Flag (Mouse monoclonal, Sigma, F1804, 1:5000) and α-HA (Rabbit monoclonal, Cell Signaling, 3724S, 1:2000).

  • In vitro methyltransferase assay

  • An IP sample (without TCA precipitation) of SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain was used for the in vitro methyltransferase activity test. Immunoprecipitation was modified from the protocol outlined in the Supplementary Methods, in which T0 buffer (30 mmol/L Tris HCl, 30 mmol/L Tris Base, 20 mmol/L KCl and 2 mmol/L MgCl2) was used instead of T150 buffer (30 mmol/L Tris HCl, 30 mmol/L Tris Base, 20 mmol/L KCl, 2 mmol/L MgCl2 and 150 mmol/L NaCl) and HA elution (eluted with 250 μg/ml HA peptide at RT for 15 min) was used as a final product for the subsequent methyltransferase activity test.

    The in vitro methyltransferase activity test was modified from previous studies (Wu et al. 2013; Zhou et al. 2016). For each test, H3-labeled S-adenosylmethionine (SAM, final concentration 10 mmol/L, from Perkin Elmer, NET155H250UC) was added to 20 μl IP sample (without TCA precipitation, in T0 buffer) or 20 μl T0 buffer (negative control). The reaction was carried out at 25 ℃ overnight, after which the methylation was detected by autoradiography.

  • Total RNA extraction and RT-PCR

  • A volume of 10 ml of cells was collected at indicated time points. TRIzol™ Reagent (Invitrogen, 15596026) was used to extract the total RNA, after which DNA was removed with the Turbo DNA-free kit (Ambion, AM 1907). Complementary DNA (cDNA) was reverse-transcribed using Superscript Ⅲ Reverse Transcriptase kit (Invitrogen, 18080-051) with parameters as follows: 50 ℃ for 50 min, 85 ℃ for 5 min, and maintained at 4 ℃.

    RT-PCR, with cDNA as template, was carried out on a CFX96™ Real-Time System (BIO-RAD, USA) with the Radiant™ Green Lo-Rox qPCR Kit (Alkali Scientific, QS1020). The reaction was carried out as previously described (Gao et al. 2013). Each reaction was performed in duplicate using primers SMYD1_f2734 and SMYD1_r2862 (Table 3). α-Tubulin_f and α-Tubulin_r (Table 3) were used as internal controls (Cheng et al. 2016). The 2-ΔΔCt method was used to analyze the real-time PCR data.

  • RNA extraction, library preparation, Illumina sequencing and data analysis

  • Total RNA of log-phase ∆SMYD1 and wild-type CU428 cells (negative control) were extracted using Qiashredder (Qiagen, 79654) and RNeasy Kit (Qiagen, 74624) according to the protocol provided in TetraFGD (Xiong et al. 2013). The Qubit RNA Assay Kit in Qubit 2.0 Flurometer (Life Technologies, CA, USA, Q32852) and the RNA Nano 6000 Assay Kit of the Agilent Bioanalyzer 2100 system (Agilent Technologies, CA, USA, 5067-1511) were used to measure the RNA concentration and integrity, respectively.

    In total, 3 μg RNA was used for sample preparation. The sequencing library was produced by NEBNext Ultra RNA Library Prep Kit for Illumina (New England Biolabs, MA, USA, E7530L) according to manufacturer's recommendations, and details are as previously described (Zhang et al. 2015). The library was sequenced on the Illumina Hiseq 2500 platform provided by Novogene Bioinformatics Institute (Beijing, China), and 125 bp paired-end reads were generated.

    FASTX-Toolkit (Gordon and Hannon 2010) was used to remove adapters and reads of low quality from the raw data, after which the remaining reads were mapped onto the Tetrahymena thermophila genome (http://ciliate.org/index.php/home/downloads, June 2014). Gene expression levels were calculated by RSEM v1.2.7 (Li and Dewey 2011). A heat map of genes differentially expressed between ∆SMYD1 and CU428 was generated with MultiExperiment Viewer (v4.9) (Mar et al. 2011). The KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) pathway analysis was carried out using the KAAS server (http://www.genome.jp/kegg/kaas/). Gene Ontology (GO) term enrichment analysis on the up-regulated genes was performed using BiNGO v3.0.3 (p.adjust < 0.05), which was integrated in Cytoscape v3.4.0, and the plot was generated by the R package, ggplot2 (Kohl et al. 2011; Maere et al. 2005; Wickham 2016).

  • Gel filtration chromatography

  • The IP sample (without TCA precipitation) of the SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain was used as input of the purification. Purification was carried out by the AKTApurifier HPLC system (including Pump P-900 and Superose 6 column, GE Healthcare) according to previous studies (Hubert et al. 2014; Hughes et al. 2013). Firstly, filtered distilled water was pumped into the system to remove any contamination and bubbles, after which filtered T0 buffer was pumped into the system as loading buffer. Secondly, formula between the Retention Volume and Molecular Weight was calculated using two marker proteins, BSA (66 kDa) and WDR5 (36 kDa); that is Rv = (2.9661-logMw)/0.073, where Rv is Retention Volume (ml) and Mw is Molecular Weight (kDa). Thirdly, 300 μl IP samples of the SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain were added into the system by 1 ml syringe and run at a flow rate of 0.5 ml/min to purify proteins of different sizes. Samples (10 μl) from each fraction (500 μl/tube) were retained for western blot analysis.

  • Pulse-chase experiment

  • The SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain was cultured in 60 ml 1 × SPP at 30 ℃ overnight. The mid-log-phase cells were pulse-labeled by adding CdCl2 (final concentration 1.5 μg/ml) into the medium. Two hours later, CdCl2 was removed by washing with 1 × SPP twice. Cells were resuspended in 60 ml fresh 1 × SPP and collected at 1 h intervals during the chase.

  • This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province (JQ201706 to SG), Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (201841013 to SG), National Science Foundation [MCB 1411565 to YL], and National Institutes of Health Foundation [R01 GM087343 to YL]. XZ was supported by China Scholarship Council Scholarship for joint PhD students. Our thanks are given to Ms. Yuanyuan Wang (Laboratory of Protozoology, Ocean University of China), for helping with the preparation of Fig. 1.

Author contributions
  • SG, YFL and XLZ participated in study design. XLZ carried out most of the experiments. YL conducted the establishment of HSP90-Nfag/SMYD1-CHA-overexpression strain and LLD prepared the RNA-seq samples. XC and FBM conducted the bioinformatics analysis. Manuscript writing was conducted by XLZ with assistance from SG, YFL, WBS and MJ. All authors have read and approved the fnal manuscript.

Data availability
  • RNA-seq datasets have been deposited to NCBI with accession number GEO: GSE138246.

Compliance with ethical standards
  • Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no confict of interest.

    Animal and human rights statement This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors

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