Histones, the proteins around which DNA coils to form chromatin, are moving toward the forefront of epigenetic research (see also, "The Meaning of Epigenetics"). A recently floated hypothesis states that the highly modifiable amino termini, or tails, of these proteins could carry their own combinatorial codes or signatures to help control phenotype, and that parts of this code may be heritable.

Histones are perhaps more intimately linked with DNA than any other protein. Transcriptional regulation, recombination, repair, and replication--basically anything that happens to the DNA--must happen within the context of its packaging. That alone lends importance to the field. Leukemia therapeutics based on inhibition of histone modifiers have already made it to the clinic.1 And in light of this new "histone code" hypothesis, researchers are quick to tout further possibilities in human development, fertility, and other types of cancer. Shelley L. Berger, associate professor of molecular genetics at...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?