Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the author's final published version in Nature Communications, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2024, Article number 2467.

The published version is available at

Copyright © The Author(s) 2024


In higher eukaryotes, a single DOT1 histone H3 lysine 79 (H3K79) methyltransferase processively produces H3K79me2/me3 through histone H2B mono-ubiquitin interaction, while the kinetoplastid Trypanosoma brucei di-methyltransferase DOT1A and tri-methyltransferase DOT1B efficiently methylate the homologous H3K76 without H2B mono-ubiquitination. Based on structural and biochemical analyses of DOT1A, we identify key residues in the methyltransferase motifs VI and X for efficient ubiquitin-independent H3K76 methylation in kinetoplastids. Substitution of a basic to an acidic residue within motif VI (Gx6K) is essential to stabilize the DOT1A enzyme-substrate complex, while substitution of the motif X sequence VYGE by CAKS renders a rigid active-site loop flexible, implying a distinct mechanism of substrate recognition. We further reveal distinct methylation kinetics and substrate preferences of DOT1A (H3K76me0) and DOT1B (DOT1A products H3K76me1/me2) in vitro, determined by a Ser and Ala residue within motif IV, respectively, enabling DOT1A and DOT1B to mediate efficient H3K76 tri-methylation non-processively but cooperatively, and suggesting why kinetoplastids have evolved two DOT1 enzymes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

PubMed ID






To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.