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Molecular & Cellular Proteomics DOI:

Quantitative assessment of ChIP-grade antbodies directed against histone modifications reveals patterns of co-occurring marks on histone protein molecules

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsPeach, SE, Rudomin, EL, Udeshi, ND, Carr, SA, Jaffe, JD
JournalMolecular & Cellular Proteomics

The defining step in most ChIP assays is the use of an antibody to enrich for a particular protein or histone modification state associated with segments of chromatin. The specificity of the antibody is critical to the interpretation of the experiment, yet this property is rarely reported. Here, we present a quantitative method using mass spectrometry to characterize the specificity of key histone H3 modification-targeting antibodies that have previously been used to characterize the "histone code." We further extend the use of these antibody reagents to the observation of long range correlations among disparate histone modifications. Using purified human histones representing the mixture of chromatin states present in living cells, we were able to quantify the degree of target enrichment and specificity of several commonly used, commercially available ChIP-grade antibodies. We found significant differences in enrichment efficiency among various reagents directed against four frequently studied chromatin marks: H3K4me2, H3K4me3, H3K9me3, and H3K27me3. For some antibodies, we also detected significant off-target enrichment of alternate modifications at the same site (i.e., enrichment of H3K4me2 by an antibody directed against H3K4me3). Through cluster analysis, we were able to recognize patterns of co-enrichment of marks at different sites on the same histone protein. Surprisingly, these co-enrichments corresponded well to "canonical" chromatin states that are exemplary of activated and repressed regions of chromatin. All together, our findings suggest that 1) results of ChIP experiments need to be evaluated with caution given the potential for cross-reactivity of the commonly used histone modification recognizing antibodies, 2) multiple marks with consistent biological interpretation exist on the same histone protein molecule, and 3) some components of the "histone code" may be transduced on single proteins in living cells.