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EMBO J. 2009 Dec 2;28(23):3635-45. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2009.301. Epub 2009 Oct 15.

Histone H1 binding is inhibited by histone variant H3.3.

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  • 1Division of Gene Regulation, Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Linker histones are involved in the formation of higher-order chromatin structure and the regulation of specific genes, yet it remains unclear what their principal binding determinants are. We generated a genome-wide high-resolution binding map for linker histone H1 in Drosophila cells, using DamID. H1 binds at similar levels across much of the genome, both in classic euchromatin and heterochromatin. Strikingly, there are pronounced dips of low H1 occupancy around transcription start sites for active genes and at many distant cis-regulatory sites. H1 dips are not due to lack of nucleosomes; rather, all regions with low binding of H1 show enrichment of the histone variant H3.3. Knockdown of H3.3 causes H1 levels to increase at these sites, with a concomitant increase in nucleosome repeat length. These changes are independent of transcriptional changes. Our results show that the H3.3 protein counteracts association of H1, providing a mechanism to keep diverse genomic sites in an open chromatin conformation.

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