The canonical histone proteins are encoded by replication-dependent genes and must rapidly reach high levels of expression during S phase. In metazoans the genes that encode these proteins produce mRNAs that, instead of being polyadenylated, contain a unique 3' end structure. By contrast, the synthesis of the variant, replication-independent histones, which are encoded by polyadenylated mRNAs, persists outside of S phase. Accurate positioning of both histone types in chromatin is essential for proper transcriptional regulation, the demarcation of heterochromatic boundaries and the epigenetic inheritance of gene expression patterns. Recent results suggest that the coordinated synthesis of replication-dependent and variant histone mRNAs is achieved by signals that affect formation of the 3' end of the replication-dependent histone mRNAs.