The conserved core of a human SIR2 homologue functions in yeast silencing

Joyce M. Sherman, Elisa M. Stone, Lisa L. Freeman-Cook, Carrie B. Brachmann, Jef D. Boeke, Lorraine Pillus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Silencing is a universal form of transcriptional regulation in which regions of the genome are reversibly inactivated by changes in chromatin structure. Sir2 (Silent Information Regulator) protein is unique among the silencing factors in Saccharomyces cerevisiae because it silences the rDNA as well as the silent mating-type loci and telomeres. Discovery of a gene family of Homologues of Sir Two (HSTs) in organisms from bacteria to humans suggests that SIR2's silencing mechanism might be conserved. The Sir2 and Hst proteins share a core domain, which includes two diagnostic sequence motifs of unknown function as well as four cysteines of a putative zinc finger. We demonstrate by mutational analyses that the conserved core and each of its motifs are essential for Sir2p silencing. Chimeras between Sir2p and a human Sir2 homologue (hSir2Ap) indicate that this human protein's core can substitute for that of Sir2p, implicating the core as a silencing domain. Immunofluorescence studies reveal partially disrupted localization, accounting for the yeast-human chimeras' ability to function at only a subset of sir2p's target loci. Together, these results support a model for the involvement of distinct Sir2p-containing complexes in HM/telomeric and rDNA silencing and that HST family members, including the widely expressed hSir2A, may perform evolutionarily conserved functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3045-3059
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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