The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 215 - 224 (2009)

Vol 53, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: Epigenetics & Development

Dynamic alterations of linker histone variants during development

Review | Published: 1 April 2009

James S. Godde*,1 and Kiyoe Ura2

1Department of Biology, Monmouth College, Monmouth, IL, USA and 2Division of Gene Therapy Science, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Suita, Osaka, Japan


The process of development can be viewed as a series of linker histone replacements which take place throughout spermatogenesis and oogenesis, as well as following fertilization or somatic nuclear transfer (SNT). Although few of the histone H1 variants in question have been shown to be essential for viability, the timing of their appearance as well as the affinity with which they are able to bind to chromatin seem to be important factors in their developmental role. A looser binding of linker histones to chromatin seems to correlate with the meiotic phases of gametogenesis and the establishment of a totipotent, as well as the maintenance of a pluripotent, state in early embryos, while tighter binding of linker histones to chromatin appears to be associated with the mitotic phases, as well as the increased levels of condensation that are required for the packaging of DNA into sperm. This latter process also involves the binding of certain basic non-histone proteins to DNA. While all proteins involved in chromatin compaction during development are highly basic in nature, in general they can be seen to change from lysine-rich variants to arginine-rich ones, and back again. The fact that linker histone transitions are conserved across diverse metazoan species speaks of their importance in packaging DNA in a variety of ways during this crucial period.


histone H1, spermatogenesis, oogenesis, fertilization, SNT

Full text in web format is not available for this article. Please download the PDF version.