Role of histone acetylation in the control of gene expression

Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 Jun;83(3):344-53. doi: 10.1139/o05-041.


Histone proteins play structural and functional roles in all nuclear processes. They undergo different types of covalent modifications, defined in their ensemble as epigenetic because changes in DNA sequences are not involved. Histone acetylation emerges as a central switch that allows interconversion between permissive and repressive chromatin domains in terms of transcriptional competence. The mechanisms underlying the histone acetylation-dependent control of gene expression include a direct effect on the stability of nucleosomal arrays and the creation of docking sites for the binding of regulatory proteins. Histone acetyltransferases and deacetylases are, respectively, the enzymes devoted to the addition and removal of acetyl groups from lysine residues on the histone N-terminal tails. The enzymes exert fundamental roles in developmental processes and their deregulation has been linked to the progression of diverse human disorders, including cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genome
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Histones / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • DNA
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Acetyltransferases