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Nat Struct Biol. 2003 Nov;10(11):882-91.

Phylogenomics of the nucleosome.

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  • 1Basic Sciences Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington 98109, USA.


Histones are best known as the architectural proteins that package the DNA of eukaryotic organisms, forming octameric nucleosome cores that the double helix wraps tightly around. Although histones have traditionally been viewed as slowly evolving scaffold proteins that lack diversification beyond their abundant tail modifications, recent studies have revealed that variant histones have evolved for diverse functions. H2A and H3 variants have diversified to assume roles in epigenetic silencing, gene expression and centromere function. Such diversification of histone variants and 'deviants' contradicts the perception of histones as monotonous members of multigene families that indiscriminately package and compact the genome. How these diverse functions have evolved from ancestral forms can be addressed by applying phylogenetic tools to increasingly abundant sequence data.

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