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Mol Cell. 2001 Apr;7(4):729-39.

Heterochromatin formation in mammalian cells: interaction between histones and HP1 proteins.

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Department of Molecular and Structural Biology and Institute of Human Genetics, Aarhus University, C. F. Mollersalle 130, DK-8000 C, Aarhus, Denmark.


Members of the heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) family are silencing nonhistone proteins. Here, we show that in P19 embryonal carcinoma (EC) nuclei, HP1 alpha, beta, and gamma form homo- and heteromers associated with nucleosomal core histones. In vitro, all three HP1s bind to tailed and tailless nucleosomes and specifically interact with the histone-fold of histone H3. Furthermore, HP1alpha interacts with the linker histone H1. HP1alpha binds to H3 and H1 through its chromodomain (CD) and hinge region, respectively. Interestingly, the Polycomb (Pc1/M33) CD also interacts with H3, and HP1alpha and Pc1/M33 binding to H3 is severely impaired by CD mutations known to abrogate HP1 and Polycomb silencing in Drosophila. These results define a novel function for the conserved CD and suggest that HP1 self-association and histone binding may play a crucial role in HP1-mediated heterochromatin assembly.

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