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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 3;109(14):5370-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1203145109. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Genome-wide analysis of histone H3.1 and H3.3 variants in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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  • 1Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Nucleosomes package eukaryotic DNA and are composed of four different histone proteins, designated H3, H4, H2A, and H2B. Histone H3 has two main variants, H3.1 and H3.3, which show different genomic localization patterns in animals. We profiled H3.1 and H3.3 variants in the genome of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana and found that the localization of these variants shows broad similarity in plants and animals, along with some unique features. H3.1 was enriched in silent areas of the genome, including regions containing the repressive chromatin modifications H3 lysine 27 methylation, H3 lysine 9 methylation, and DNA methylation. In contrast, H3.3 was enriched in actively transcribed genes, especially peaking at the 3' end of genes, and correlated with histone modifications associated with gene activation, such as histone H3 lysine 4 methylation and H2B ubiquitylation, as well as RNA Pol II occupancy. Surprisingly, both H3.1 and H3.3 were enriched on defined origins of replication, as was overall nucleosome density, suggesting a novel characteristic of plant origins. Our results are broadly consistent with the hypothesis that H3.1 acts as the canonical histone that is incorporated during DNA replication, whereas H3.3 acts as the replacement histone that can be incorporated outside of S-phase during chromatin-disrupting processes like transcription.

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