During the recent years lysine methyltransferase Set7/9 ((Su(var)-3-9, Enhancer-of-Zeste, Trithorax) domain containing protein 7/9) has emerged as an important regulator of different transcription factors. In this study, we report a novel function for Set7/9 as a critical co-activator of E2 promoter-binding factor 1 (E2F1)-dependent transcription in response to DNA damage. By means of various biochemical, cell biology, and bioinformatics approaches, we uncovered that cell-cycle progression through the G1/S checkpoint of tumour cells upon DNA damage is defined by the threshold of expression of both E2F1 and Set7/9. The latter affects the activity of E2F1 by indirectly modulating histone modifications in the promoters of E2F1-dependent genes. Moreover, Set7/9 differentially affects E2F1 transcription targets: it promotes cell proliferation via expression of the CCNE1 gene and represses apoptosis by inhibiting the TP73 gene. Our biochemical screening of the panel of lung tumour cell lines suggests that these two factors are critically important for transcriptional upregulation of the CCNE1 gene product and hence successful progression through cell cycle. These findings identify Set7/9 as a potential biomarker in tumour cells with overexpressed E2F1 activity.
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