Monoubiquitinated H2B is associated with the transcribed region of highly expressed genes in human cells

Nat Cell Biol. 2008 Apr;10(4):483-8. doi: 10.1038/ncb1712. Epub 2008 Mar 16.


Histone modifications have emerged as important regulators of transcription. Histone H2B monoubiquitination has also been implicated in transcription; however, better understanding of the biological significance of this modification in mammalian cells has been hindered by the lack of suitable reagents, particularly antibodies capable of specifically recognizing ubiquitinated H2B (ubH2B). Here, we report the generation of anti-ubH2B monoclonal antibodies using a branched peptide as immunogen. These antibodies provide a powerful tool for exploring the biochemical functions of H2B monoubiquitination at both a genome-wide and gene-specific level. Application of these antibodies in high resolution chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-chip experiments in human cells, using tiling arrays, revealed preferential association of ubiquitinated H2B with the transcribed regions of highly expressed genes. Unlike dimethylated H3K4, ubH2B was not associated with distal promoter regions. Furthermore, experimental modulation of the transcriptional activity of the tumour suppressor p53 was accompanied by rapid changes in the H2B ubiquitination status of its p21 target gene, attesting to the dynamic nature of this process. It has recently been demonstrated that the apparent extent of gene expression often reflects elongation rather than initiation rates; thus, our findings suggest that H2B ubiquitination is intimately linked with global transcriptional elongation in mammalian cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitination


  • Histones
  • Ubiquitin