Evidence is emerging that biotin participates in processes other than classical carboxylation reactions. Specifically, novel roles for biotin in cell signaling, gene expression, and chromatin structure have been identified in recent years. Human cells accumulate biotin by using both the sodium-dependent multivitamin transporter and monocarboxylate transporter 1. These transporters and other biotin-binding proteins partition biotin to compartments involved in biotin signaling: cytoplasm, mitochondria, and nuclei. The activity of cell signals such as biotinyl-AMP, Sp1 and Sp3, nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB, and receptor tyrosine kinases depends on biotin supply. Consistent with a role for biotin and its catabolites in modulating these cell signals, greater than 2000 biotin-dependent genes have been identified in various human tissues. Many biotin-dependent gene products play roles in signal transduction and localize to the cell nucleus, consistent with a role for biotin in cell signaling. Posttranscriptional events related to ribosomal activity and protein folding may further contribute to effects of biotin on gene expression. Finally, research has shown that biotinidase and holocarboxylase synthetase mediate covalent binding of biotin to histones (DNA-binding proteins), affecting chromatin structure; at least seven biotinylation sites have been identified in human histones. Biotinylation of histones appears to play a role in cell proliferation, gene silencing, and the cellular response to DNA repair. Roles for biotin in cell signaling and chromatin structure are consistent with the notion that biotin has a unique significance in cell biology.