The chromatin remodelling complex B-WICH, which comprises the William syndrome transcription factor (WSTF), SNF2h, and nuclear myosin 1 (NM1), is involved in regulating rDNA transcription, and SiRNA silencing of WSTF leads to a reduced level of 45S pre-rRNA. The mechanism behind the action of B-WICH is unclear. Here, we show that the B-WICH complex affects the chromatin structure and that silencing of the WSTF protein results in a compaction of the chromatin structure over a 200 basepair region at the rRNA promoter. WSTF knock down does not show an effect on the binding of the rRNA-specific enhancer and chromatin protein UBF, which contributes to the chromatin structure at active genes. Instead, WSTF knock down results in a reduced level of acetylated H3-Ac, in particular H3K9-Ac, at the promoter and along the gene. The association of the histone acetyl-transferases PCAF, p300 and GCN5 with the promoter is reduced in WSTF knock down cells, whereas the association of the histone acetyl-transferase MOF is retained. A low level of H3-Ac was also found in growing cells, but here histone acetyl-transferases were present at the rDNA promoter. We propose that the B-WICH complex remodels the chromatin structure at actively transcribed rRNA genes, and this allows for the association of specific histone acetyl-transferases.
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