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J Virol. 2011 Dec;85(24):13234-52. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06038-11. Epub 2011 Oct 12.

Core histones H2B and H4 are mobilized during infection with herpes simplex virus 1.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, 6-142G KATZ, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E1, Canada.


The infecting genomes of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) are assembled into unstable nucleosomes soon after nuclear entry. The source of the histones that bind to these genomes has yet to be addressed. However, infection inhibits histone synthesis. The histones that bind to HSV-1 genomes are therefore most likely those previously bound in cellular chromatin. In order for preexisting cellular histones to associate with HSV-1 genomes, however, they must first disassociate from cellular chromatin. Consistently, we have shown that linker histones are mobilized during HSV-1 infection. Chromatinization of HSV-1 genomes would also require the association of core histones. We therefore evaluated the mobility of the core histones H2B and H4 as measures of the mobilization of H2A-H2B dimers and the more stable H3-H4 core tetramer. H2B and H4 were mobilized during infection. Their mobilization increased the levels of H2B and H4 in the free pools and decreased the rate of H2B fast chromatin exchange. The histones in the free pools would then be available to bind to HSV-1 genomes. The mobilization of H2B occurred independently from HSV-1 protein expression or DNA replication although expression of HSV-1 immediate-early (IE) or early (E) proteins enhanced it. The mobilization of core histones H2B and H4 supports a model in which the histones that associate with HSV-1 genomes are those that were previously bound in cellular chromatin. Moreover, this mobilization is consistent with the assembly of H2A-H2B and H3-H4 dimers into unstable nucleosomes with HSV-1 genomes.

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