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Mol Cell Biol. Nov 1997; 17(11): 6303–6310.
PMCID: PMC232481

Constitutive expression, not a particular primary sequence, is the important feature of the H3 replacement variant hv2 in Tetrahymena thermophila.

Abstract

Although quantitatively minor replication-independent (replacement) histone variants have been found in a wide variety of organisms, their functions remain unknown. Like the H3.3 replacement variants of vertebrates, hv2, an H3 variant in the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila, is synthesized and deposited in nuclei of nongrowing cells. Although hv2 is clearly an H3.3-like replacement variant by its expression, sequence analysis indicates that it evolved independently of the H3.3 variants of multicellular eukaryotes. This suggested that it is the constitutive synthesis, not the particular protein sequence, of these variants that is important in the function of H3 replacement variants. Here, we demonstrate that the gene (HHT3) encoding hv2 or either gene (HHT1 or HHT2) encoding the abundant major H3 can be completely knocked out in Tetrahymena. Surprisingly, when cells lacking hv2 are starved, a major histone H3 mRNA transcribed by the HHT2 gene, which is synthesized little, if at all, in wild-type nongrowing cells, is easily detectable. Both HHT2 and HHT3 knockout strains show no obvious defect during vegetative growth. In addition, a mutant with the double knockout of HHT1 and HHT3 is viable while the HHT2 HHT3 double-knockout mutant is not. These results argue strongly that cells require a constitutively expressed H3 gene but that the particular sequence being expressed is not critical.

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Selected References

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