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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2005 Apr;15(2):163-76.

The key to development: interpreting the histone code?

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Division of Nucleic Acids Enzymology, Department of Biochemistry, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 683 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


Developmental stages in multicellular organisms proceed according to a temporally and spatially precise pattern of gene expression. It has become evident that changes within the chromatin structure brought about by covalent modifications of histones are of crucial importance in determining many biological processes, including development. Numerous studies have provided evidence that the enzymes responsible for the modifications of histones function in a coordinated pattern to control gene expression in the short term and, through the transferral of these modifications by inheritance to their progeny, in the long term.

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