New Histone Function Identified: Histone H1 Couples Initiation and Amplification of Ubiquitin Signaling after DNA Damage; Finding May Improve Understanding of DNA Protection & Repair and Spawn New Disease Treatments

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, together with colleagues at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, have identified a previously unknown function of histone H1, one of the five known histones, which allows for an improved understanding of how cells protect and repair DNA damages. This knowledge may eventually result in better treatments for diseases such as cancer. "I believe that there's a lot of work ahead. It's like opening a door onto a previously undiscovered territory filled with lots of exciting knowledge. The histones are incredibly important to many of the cells' processes, as well as their overall well-being," says Dr. Niels Mailand from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Protein Research at the Faculty of Health and Medical Science. The findings were published online on October 21, 2015 in Nature. The article is titled “Histone H1 Couples Initiation and Amplification of Ubiquitin Signaling after DNA Damage.” Specifically, the researchers concluded that their results “identify histone H1 as a key target of [the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF8 and the E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBC13] RNF8–UBC13 in double-strand break (DSB) signalling and expand the concept of the histone code by showing that post-translational modifications of linker histones can serve as important marks for recognition by factors involved in genome stability maintenance, and possibly beyond.” Histones enable the tight packaging of DNA strands within cells. The strands are approximately two meters in length and the cells are usually approximately 100,000 times smaller. Generally speaking, there are five types of histones. Four of these types are so-called “core” histones, and they are placed like beads on the DNA strands, which are curled up like a ball of yarn within the cells.
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