Translocation of histone proteins across lipid bilayers and Mycoplasma membranes

J Mol Biol. 2005 Jan 14;345(2):387-400. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2004.10.046.


We show that the three core histones H2A, H3 and H4 can transverse lipid bilayers of large unilamellar vesicles (LUVs) and multilamellar vesicles (MLVs). In contrast, the histone H2B, although able to bind to the liposomes, fails to penetrate the unilamellar and the multilamellar vesicles. Translocation across the lipid bilayer was determined using biotin-labeled histones and an ELISA-based system. Following incubation with the liposomes, external membrane-bound biotin molecules were neutralized by the addition of avidin. Penetrating biotin-histone conjugates were exposed by Triton treatment of the neutralized liposomes. The intraliposomal biotin-histone conjugates, in contrast to those attached only to the external surface, were attached to the detergent lysed lipid molecules. Thus, biotinylated histone molecules that were exposed only following detergent treatment of the liposomes were considered to be located at the inner leaflet of the lipid bilayers. The penetrating histone molecules failed to mediate translocation of BSA molecules covalently attached to them. Translocation of the core histones, including H2B, was also observed across mycoplasma cell membranes. The extent of this translocation was inversely related to the degree of membrane cholesterol. The addition of cholesterol also reduced the extent of histone penetration into the MLVs. Although able to bind biotinylated histones, human erythrocytes, erythrocyte ghosts and Escherichia coli cells were impermeable to them. Based on the present and previous data histones appear to be characterized by the same features that characterize cell penetrating peptides and proteins (CPPs).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biotin / chemistry
  • Biotinylation
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cholesterol
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Histones / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Liposomes / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Biological
  • Mycoplasma / metabolism*
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Transport
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Temperature


  • Histones
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Lipids
  • Liposomes
  • Peptides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Biotin
  • Cholesterol