DEAD-Box Helicase 18 Counteracts PRC2 to Safeguard Ribosomal DNA in Pluripotency Regulation

Hui Zhang, Zhongyang Wu, J. Yuyang Lu, Bo Huang, Hongwei Zhou, Wei Xie, Jianlong Wang, Xiaohua Shen

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21 Scopus citations


Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) exhibit high levels of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) transcription and ribosome biogenesis. Here, we reveal an unexpected role for an essential DEAD-box helicase, DDX18, in antagonizing the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) to prevent deposition of the repressive H3K27me3 mark onto rDNA in pluripotent cells. DDX18 binds and sequesters PRC2 in the outer layer of the nucleolus and counteracts PRC2 complex formation in vivo and in vitro. DDX18 knockdown leads to increased occupancy of PRC2 and H3K27me3 at rDNA loci, accompanied by drastically decreased rRNA transcription and reduced ribosomal protein expression and translation. Auxin-induced rapid degradation of DDX18 enhances PRC2 binding at rDNA. The inhibition of PRC2 partially rescues the effects of DDX18 depletion on rRNA transcription and ESC self-renewal. These results demonstrate a critical role for DDX18 in safeguarding the chromatin and transcriptional integrity of rDNA by counteracting the epigenetic silencing machinery to promote pluripotency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-97.e7
JournalCell Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 7 Jan 2020


  • DDX18
  • PRC2
  • RNA-binding protein
  • nucleolus
  • rDNA loci
  • rRNA transcription
  • stem cell pluripotency


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