Histones Animation

Histones are the chief protein components of chromatin. They act as spools around which DNA winds and they play a role in gene regulation.

Classes

Six major histone classes are known:
H1 (sometimes called the linker histone or H5.)
H2A
H2B
H3
H4
Archaeal histones

Two each of the class H2A, H2B, H3 and H4, so-called core histones, assemble to form one octameric nucleosome core particle by wrapping 146 base pairs of DNA around the protein spool in 1.65 left-handed super-helical turn. The linker histone H1 binds the nucleosome and the entry and exit sites of the DNA, thus locking the DNA into place and allowing the formation of higher order structure. The most basic such formation is the 10 nm fiber or beads on a string conformation. This involves the wrapping of DNA around nucleosomes with approximately 50 base pairs of DNA spaced between each nucleosome (also referred to as linker DNA). Higher order structures include the 30 nm fiber (forming an irregular zigzag) and 100 nm fiber, these being the structures found in normal cells. During meiosis, through the combination of nucleosome interactions with other proteins, the chromosome is assembled. The assembled histones and DNA is called chromatin.






Two each of the class H2A, H2B, H3 and H4, so-called core histones, assemble to form one octameric nucleosome core particle by wrapping 146 base pairs of DNA around the protein spool in 1.65 left-handed super-helical turn. The linker histone H1 binds the nucleosome and the entry and exit sites of the DNA, thus locking the DNA into place and allowing the formation of higher order structure. The most basic such formation is the 10 nm fiber or beads on a string conformation. This involves the wrapping of DNA around nucleosomes with approximately 50 base pairs of DNA spaced between each nucleosome (also referred to as linker DNA). Higher order structures include the 30 nm fiber (forming an irregular zigzag) and 100 nm fiber, these being the structures found in normal cells. During meiosis, through the combination of nucleosome interactions with other proteins, the chromosome is assembled. The assembled histones and DNA is called chromatin.

Structure

The nucleosome core is formed of two H2A-H2B dimers and a H3-H4 tetramer, forming two nearly symmetrical halves by tertiary structure (C2 symmetry; one macromolecule is the mirror image of the other). The H2A-H2B dimers and H3-H4 tetramer also show pseudodyad symmetry.

The 4 'core' histones (H2A, H2B, H3 and H4) are relatively similar in structure and are highly conserved through evolution, all featuring a 'helix turn helix turn helix' motif (which allows the easy dimerisation). They also share the feature of long 'tails' on one end of the amino acid structure - this being the location of post-transcriptional modification

In all, histones make five types of interactions with DNA:
Helix-dipoles from alpha-helices in H2B, H3, and H4 cause a net positive charge to accumulate at the point of interaction with negatively charged phosphate groups on DNA.
Hydrogen bonds between the DNA backbone and the amine group on the main chain of histone proteins.
Nonpolar interactions between the histone and deoxyribose sugars on DNA.
Salt links and hydrogen bonds between side chains of basic amino acids (especially lysine and arginine) and phosphate oxygens on DNA.
Non-specific minor groove insertions of the H3 and H2B N-terminal tails into two minor grooves each on the DNA molecule.

The highly basic nature of histones, aside from facilitating DNA-histone interactions, contributes to the water solubility of histones.

Histones are subject to posttranslational modification by enzymes primarily on their N-terminal tails, but also in their globular domains. Such modifications include methylation, citrullination, acetylation, phosphorylation, Sumoylation, ubiquitination, and ADP-ribosylation. This affects their function of gene regulation

In general, genes that are active have less bound histone, while inactive genes are highly associated with histones during interphase. It also appears that the structure of histones have been evolutionarily conserved, as any deleterious mutations would be severely maladaptive.

Functions

Packing proteins
Histones act as spools around which DNA winds. This enables the compaction necessary to fit the large genomes of eukaryotes inside cell nuclei: the compacted molecule is 50,000 times shorter than an unpacked molecule.

Histone modifications in chromatin regulation

Histones undergo posttranslational modifications which alter their interaction with DNA and nuclear proteins. The H3 and H4 histones have long tails protruding from the nucleosome which can be covalently modified at several places. Modifications of the tail include methylation, acetylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitination, sumoylation, citrullination, and ADP ribosylation. The core of the histones (H2A and H3) can also be modified. Combinations of modifications are thought to constitute a code, the so-called "histone code". Histone modifications act in diverse biological processes such as gene regulation, DNA repair and chromosome condensation (mitosis)

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