Gene activation at a distance and telomeric silencing are not affected by yeast histone H1
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Until recently, it was believed that the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has no histone H1 gene. However, a search of the yeast genome database revealed a possible H1 homologue of 258 amino acids, termed yeast histone H1 (HHO1). The protein shows 36% identity to the human H1 core domain over a stretch of 93 amino acids. Unlike other H1 proteins, Hho1p has a second possible core domain which shows 43% identity to the first core domain. Since vertebrate H1 histone had been implied in gene repression as well as gene activation at a distance, we tested the effect of deleting the yeast H1-like gene on remote activation of a modified GAL1 promoter, which contains a synthetic GAL4 binding site close to the TATA box, and the natural UASG, consisting of four GAL4 binding sites. Different spacing up to 1.8 kb between the proximal binding site and the distal UASG enhancer revealed no differences in gene activation between wild-type and knockout strains. Overexpression of a heterologous histone H1 from sea urchin showed an overall inhibition of gene activation by the GAL1 promoter, whereas overexpression of the yeast histone H1 had no effect. Also, the expression of A1, ALPHA2 or SUC2 genes, all of which are known to be responsive to an altered chromatin structure, was unchanged in HHO1 knockout or HHO1-overexpressing strains when compared to wild-type cells. We also considered the possibility that HHO1 was involved in forming the heterochromatin at telomeres. On testing for telomeric silencing of a URA reporter gene introduced 1.3 kb away from the chromosomal end, we again observed no differences between wild-type and knockout strains. Thus, the yeast histone H1-like gene appears to have no role in gene activation at a distance or in silencing under the conditions tested. It remains to be seen whether the yeast H1 histone is a gene-specific regulator rather than a general chromatin-associated protein.
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