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Biochem Cell Biol. 2011 Feb;89(1):35-44. doi: 10.1139/O10-024.

Structure of the H1 C-terminal domain and function in chromatin condensation.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Box 712, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Linker histones are multifunctional proteins that are involved in a myriad of processes ranging from stabilizing the folding and condensation of chromatin to playing a direct role in regulating gene expression. However, how this class of enigmatic proteins binds in chromatin and accomplishes these functions remains unclear. Here we review data regarding the H1 structure and function in chromatin, with special emphasis on the C-terminal domain (CTD), which typically encompasses approximately half of the mass of the linker histone and includes a large excess of positively charged residues. Owing to its amino acid composition, the CTD was previously proposed to function in chromatin as an unstructured polycation. However, structural studies have shown that the CTD adopts detectable secondary structure when interacting with DNA and macromolecular crowding agents. We describe classic and recent experiments defining the function of this domain in chromatin folding and emerging data indicating that the function of this protein may be linked to intrinsic disorder.

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