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Biological Chemistry

Editor-in-Chief: Brüne, Bernhard

Editorial Board Member: Buchner, Johannes / Ludwig, Stephan / Sies, Helmut / Turk, Boris / Wittinghofer, Alfred

12 Issues per year



The histone H1 family: specific members, specific functions?

Annalisa Izzo1 / Kinga Kamieniarz2 / Robert Schneider3

1Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology, Stübeweg 51, D-79108 Freiburg, Germany

2Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology, Stübeweg 51, D-79108 Freiburg, Germany

3Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology, Stübeweg 51, D-79108 Freiburg, Germany

Corresponding author

Citation Information: Biological Chemistry. Volume 389, Issue 4, Pages 333–343, ISSN (Online) 14374315, ISSN (Print) 14316730, DOI: 10.1515/BC.2008.037, March 2008

Publication History

Published Online:


The linker histone H1 binds to the DNA entering and exiting the nucleosomal core particle and has an important role in establishing and maintaining higher order chromatin structures. H1 forms a complex family of related proteins with distinct species, tissue and developmental specificity. In higher eukaryotes all H1 variants have the same general structure, consisting of a central conserved globular domain and less conserved N-terminal and C-terminal tails. These tails are moderately conserved among species, but differ among variants, suggesting a specific function for each H1 variant. Due to compensatory mechanisms and to the lack of proper tools, it has been very difficult to study the biological role of individual variants in chromatin-mediated processes. Our knowledge about H1 variants is indeed limited, and in vitro and in vivo observations have often been contradictory. Therefore, H1 variants were considered to be functionally redundant. However, recent knockout studies and biochemical analyses in different organisms have revealed exciting new insights into the specificity and mechanisms of actions of the H1 family members. Here, we collect and compare the available literature about H1 variants and discuss possible specific roles that challenge the concept of H1 being a mere structural component of chromatin and a general repressor of transcription.

Keywords: chromatin; gene expression; histone H1; variants

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