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Gene. 2004 Nov 10;342(1):35-40.

Functional characterization of a human histone gene cluster duplication.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Cancer Center, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655-0002, USA.


Histones are the major protein component of nucleosomes, and de novo histone synthesis is essential for packaging newly replicated DNA into chromatin. As a result, histone gene expression is exquisitely and functionally coupled with DNA replication. Vastly divergent organisms such as yeast, fly and human all demonstrate the phylogenetically conserved propensity to maintain clustering of histone genes at one or more genomic loci. Although specific mechanisms are unclear, clustering is presumed to be important for common stringent transcriptional control of these genes at the G1/S phase transition. In this study, we describe a genomic duplication of the human histone gene cluster located at chromosome 1q21, which effectively doubles the previously known size and gene number of that cluster. The duplication persists in all examined tissues and cell lines, and the duplicated genes are transcriptionally active. Levels of messenger RNAs for duplicated histone H4 genes are high relative to those for non-duplicated H4 genes. Our data suggest that transcriptionally robust histone H4 genes may have been preferentially duplicated during evolution.

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