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Trends Biochem Sci. 2010 Feb;35(2):115-23. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2009.09.003.

The essential function of HP1 beta: a case of the tail wagging the dog?

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  • 1Division of Immunoepigenetics, Department of Immunology and Cell Biology, Forschungszentrum Borstel, D-23845 Borstel, Germany.


A large body of work in various organisms has shown that the presence of HP1 structural proteins and methylated lysine 9 of histone H3 (H3K9me) represent the characteristic hallmarks of heterochromatin. We propose that a more critical assessment of the physiological importance of the H3K9me-HP1 interaction is warranted in light of recent studies on the mammalian HP1 beta protein. Based on this new research, we conclude that the essential function of HP1 beta (and perhaps that of its orthologues in other species) lies outside the canonical heterochromatic H3K9me-HP1 interaction. We suggest instead that binding of a small fraction of HP1 beta to the H3 histone fold performs a critical role in heterochromatin function and organismal survival.

(c) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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