Histone variants in archaea and the evolution of combinatorial chromatin complexity

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
K. M. StevensTobias Warnecke


Nucleosomes in eukaryotes act as platforms for the dynamic integration of epigenetic information. Post-translational modifications are reversibly added or removed and core histones exchanged for paralogous variants, in concert with changing demands on transcription and genome accessibility. Histones are also common in archaea. Their role in genome regulation, however, and the capacity of individual paralogs to assemble into histone-DNA complexes with distinct properties remain poorly understood. Here, we combine structural modelling approaches with phylogenetic analysis to shed light on archaeal histone paralogs, their evolutionary history and capacity to generate complex combinatorial chromatin states through hetero-oligomeric assembly. Focusing on the human commensal Methanosphaera stadtmanae as a model archaeal system, we show that the heteromeric complexes that can be assembled from its seven histone paralogs vary substantially in DNA binding affinity and tetramer stability, occupying a large but densely populated chromatin state space. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we go on to identify unique paralogs in M. stadtmanae and Methanobrevibacter smithii that are characterized by unstable dimer:dimer interfaces. We propo...Continue Reading

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