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Nucleic Acids Res. 1998 Jan 15;26(2):427-30.

Evidence for an early prokaryotic origin of histones H2A and H4 prior to the emergence of eukaryotes.

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M. M. Shemyakin and Yu. A. Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 117871 Moscow, Russia.


Histones have been identified recently in many prokaryotes. These histones, unlike their eukaryotic homologs, are of a single uniform type that is thought to resemble the archetypal ancestor of the eukaryotic histone family. In this paper we report the finding, the cloning and the phylogenetic analysis of the sequence of a prokaryotic histone from the hyperthermophile Methanopyrus kandleri . Unlike previously described prokaryotic histones, the Methanopyrus sequence has a novel structure consisting of two tandemly repeated histone fold motifs in a single polypeptide. Sequence analyses indicate that the N-terminal repeat is most closely related to eukaryotic H2A and H4 histones, whereas the C-terminal repeat resembles that found in prokaryotic histones. These results imply an early divergence within the histone gene family prior to the emergence of eukaryotes and may represent an evolutionary step leading to eukaryotic histones.

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