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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 10;109(15):5779-84. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1203453109. Epub 2012 Mar 26.

Mutagenesis of pairwise combinations of histone amino-terminal tails reveals functional redundancy in budding yeast.

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Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.


A large body of literature provides compelling evidence for the role of evolutionarily conserved core histone residues in various biological processes. However, site-directed mutagenesis of individual residues that are known to be sites of posttranslational modifications often does not result in clear phenotypic defects. In some cases, the combination of multiple mutations can give rise to stronger phenotypes, implying functional redundancy between distinct residues on histones. Here, we examined the "histone redundancy hypothesis" by characterizing double deletion of all pairwise combinations of amino-terminal tails (N-tails) from the four core histones encoded in budding yeast. First, we found that multiple lysine residues on the N-tails of both H2A and H4 are redundantly involved in cell viability. Second, simultaneous deletion of N-tails from H2A and H3 leads to a severe growth defect, which is correlated with perturbed gross chromatin structure in the mutant cells. Finally, by combining point mutations on H3 with deletion of the H2A N-tail, we revealed a redundant role for lysine 4 on H3 and the H2A N-tail in hydroxyurea-mediated response. Altogether, these data suggest that the N-tails of core histones share previously unrecognized, potentially redundant functions that, in some cases are different from those of the widely accepted H2A/H2B and H3/H4 dimer pairs.

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