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Cell. 1995 Jul 14;82(1):47-56.

Linker histones are not essential and affect chromatin condensation in vivo.

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Department of Biology, University of Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


We have (separately) disrupted all of the expressed macronuclear copies of the HHO gene encoding macronuclear histone H1 and of the micronuclear linker histone (MLH) gene encoding the protein MicLH in Tetrahymena thermophila. These disruptions are shown to eliminate completely the expression of each protein. Strains without either linker histone grow at normal rates and reach near-normal cell densities, demonstrating that linker histones are not essential for cell survival. Histone H1 knockout (delta H1) cells have enlarged DAPI-stained macronuclei and normal-sized micronuclei, while MicLH knockout (delta MicLH) cells have enlarged micronuclei and normal-sized macronuclei. delta MicLH cells undergo mitosis normally. However, the micronuclear mitotic chromosome structure is less condensed. These studies provide evidence that linker histones are nonessential and are involved in chromatin packaging and condensation in vivo.

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