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Bioessays. 1997 Mar;19(3):249-55.

What do linker histones do in chromatin?

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Laboratory of Molecular Embryology, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892-5430, USA.


Knockout experiments in Tetrahymena show that linker histone H1 is not essential for nuclear assembly or cell viability. These results, together with a series of biochemical and cell biological observations, challenge the existing paradigm that requires linker histones to be a key organizing component of higher-order chromatin structure. The H1 knockouts also reveal a much more subtle role for H1. Instead of acting as a general transcriptional repressor, H1 is found to regulate a limited number of specific genes. Surprisingly, H1 can both activate and repress transcription. We discuss how this architectural protein might accomplish this important regulatory role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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