Recent studies have identified cancer-associated mutations in histone genes that lead to the expression of mutant versions of core histones called oncohistones. Many oncohistone mutations occur at Asp and Glu residues, two amino acids known to be ADP-ribosylated (ADPRylated) by PARP-1. We screened 25 Glu or Asp oncohistone mutants for their effects on cell growth in breast and ovarian cancer cells. Ectopic expression of six mutants of three different core histones (H2B, H3, and H4) altered cell growth in at least two different cell lines. Two of these sites, H2BD51 and H4-D68, were indeed sites of ADPRylation in wild-type (unmutated) histones, and mutation of these sites inhibited ADPRylation. Mutation of H2B-D51 dramatically altered chromatin accessibility at enhancers and promoters, as well as gene expression outcomes, whereas mutation of H4-D68 did not. Additional biochemical, cellular, proteomic, and genomic analyses demonstrated that ADPRylation of H2B-D51 inhibits p300-mediated acetylation of H2B at many Lys residues. In breast cancer cell xenografts in mice, H2B-D51A promoted tumor growth, but did not confer resistance to the cytotoxic effects of PARP inhibition. Collectively, these results demonstrate that functional Asp and Glu ADPRylation sites on histones are mutated in cancers, allowing cancer cells to escape the growth-regulating effects of post-translational modifications via distinct mechanisms.

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