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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Nov 21;92(24):11170-4.

The histone fold: a ubiquitous architectural motif utilized in DNA compaction and protein dimerization.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


The histones of all eukaryotes show only a low degree of primary structure homology, but our earlier crystallographic results defined a three-dimensional structural motif, the histone fold, common to all core histones. We now examine the specific architectural patterns within the fold and analyze the nature of the amino acid residues within its functional segments. The histone fold emerges as a fundamental protein dimerization motif while the differentiations of the tips of the histone dimers appear to provide the rules of core octamer assembly and the basis for nucleosome regulation. We present evidence for the occurrence of the fold from archaebacteria to mammals and propose the use of this structural motif to define a distinct family of proteins, the histone fold superfamily. It appears that evolution has conserved the conformation of the fold even through variations in primary structure and among proteins with various functional roles.

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