Short Histone H2A Variants: Small in Stature but not in Function

Xuanzhao Jiang, Tatiana A. Soboleva, David J. Tremethick

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    The dynamic packaging of DNA into chromatin regulates all aspects of genome function by altering the accessibility of DNA and by providing docking pads to proteins that copy, repair and express the genome. Different epigenetic-based mechanisms have been described that alter the way DNA is organised into chromatin, but one fundamental mechanism alters the biochemical composition of a nucleosome by substituting one or more of the core histones with their variant forms. Of the core histones, the largest number of histone variants belong to the H2A class. The most divergent class is the designated "short H2A variants" (H2A.B, H2A.L, H2A.P and H2A.Q), so termed because they lack a H2A C-terminal tail. These histone variants appeared late in evolution in eutherian mammals and are lineage-specific, being expressed in the testis (and, in the case of H2A.B, also in the brain). To date, most information about the function of these peculiar histone variants has come from studies on the H2A.B and H2A.L family in mice. In this review, we describe their unique protein characteristics, their impact on chromatin structure, and their known functions plus other possible, even non-chromatin, roles in an attempt to understand why these peculiar histone variants evolved in the first place.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number408
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020


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