Jabeena, C A et al.
Epigenetic modifications have emerged as critical regulators of virulence genes and stage-specific gene expression in Plasmodium falciparum. However, the specific roles of histone core epigenetic modifications in regulating the stage-specific gene expression are not well understood. In this study, we report an unconventional trimethylation at lysine 64 on histone 3 (H3K64me3) and characterize its functional relevance in P. falciparum. We show that PfSET4 and PfSET5 proteins of P. falciparum methylate H3K64 and that they prefer the nucleosome as a substrate over free histone 3 proteins. Structural analysis of PfSET5 revealed that it interacts with the nucleosome as a dimer. The H3K64me3 mark is dynamic, being enriched in the ring and trophozoite stages and drastically reduced in schizont stages. Stage-specific global ChIP-sequencing analysis of the H3K64me3 mark revealed the selective enrichment of this methyl mark on the genes of exported family proteins in the ring and trophozoite stages, and a significant reduction of the same in the schizont stages. Collectively, our data identify a novel epigenetic mark that are associated with the subset of genes encoding for exported proteins which may regulate their expression in different stages of P. falciparum.