Functions of site-specific histone acetylation and deacetylation

Annu Rev Biochem. 2007;76:75-100. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.76.052705.162114.


Histone acetylation regulates many cellular processes, and specific acetylation marks, either singly or in combination, produce distinct outcomes. For example, the acetylation pattern on newly synthesized histones is important for their assembly into nucleosomes by histone chaperones. Additionally, the degree of chromatin compaction and folding may be regulated by acetylation of histone H4 at lysine 16. Histone acetylation also regulates the formation of heterochromatin; deacetylation of H4 lysine 16 is important for spreading of heterochromatin components, whereas acetylation of this site serves as a barrier to this spreading. Finally, histone acetylation is critical for gene transcription, but recent results suggest that deacetylation of certain sites also plays an important role. There are many histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and deacetylases, with differing preferences for the various histone proteins and for specific sites on individual histones. Determining how these enzymes create distinct acetylation patterns and regulate the functional outcome is an important challenge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Packaging
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Heterochromatin / chemistry
  • Heterochromatin / metabolism*
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Sirtuins / metabolism
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Heterochromatin
  • Histones
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Nucleosomes
  • Protein Subunits
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Sirtuins
  • Histone Deacetylases