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Biochemistry. 2009 Jan 13;48(1):164-72. doi: 10.1021/bi801636y.

Chromatin condensing functions of the linker histone C-terminal domain are mediated by specific amino acid composition and intrinsic protein disorder.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1870, USA.


Linker histones bind to the nucleosomes and linker DNA of chromatin fibers, causing changes in linker DNA structure and stabilization of higher order folded and oligomeric chromatin structures. Linker histones affect chromatin structure acting primarily through their approximately 100-residue C-terminal domain (CTD). We have previously shown that the ability of the linker histone H1 degrees to alter chromatin structure was localized to two discontinuous 24-/25-residue CTD regions (Lu, X., and Hansen, J. C. (2004) J. Biol. Chem. 279, 8701-8707). To determine the biochemical basis for these results, we have characterized chromatin model systems assembled with endogenous mouse somatic H1 isoforms or recombinant H1 degrees CTD mutants in which the primary sequence has been scrambled, the amino acid composition mutated, or the location of various CTD regions swapped. Our results indicate that specific amino acid composition plays a fundamental role in molecular recognition and function by the H1 CTD. Additionally, these experiments support a new molecular model for CTD function and provide a biochemical basis for the redundancy observed in H1 isoform knockout experiments in vivo.

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