Testis-specific linker histone H1t is multiply phosphorylated during spermatogenesis. Identification of phosphorylation sites

J Biol Chem. 2009 Feb 6;284(6):3610-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M805925200. Epub 2008 Nov 29.


During normal spermatogenesis, the testis-specific linker histone H1t appears at pachytene stage becomes phosphorylated in early spermatids and disappears in late spermatids. Using reversed-phase and hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography, H1t from rat and mouse testes was isolated, subjected to enzymatic digestion, and analyzed by mass spectrometry. We observed different phosphorylated states of H1t (mono-, di-, and triphosphorylated) as well as the unphosphorylated protein. Tandem mass spectrometry and immobilized metal ion affinity chromatography experiments with MS/MS/MS and multistage activation were utilized to identify five phosphorylation sites on H1t from rats. Phosphorylation occurs on both serine and threonine residues, whereas only two of these sites were located on peptides containing the CDK consensus motif (S/T)PXZ. Rat H1t phosphorylation starts first by phosphorylation of the nonconsensus motif SPKS in the COOH-terminal domain, namely at Ser-140 and to a smaller degree at a further nonconsensus motif at Ser-186. This is followed by phosphorylation of Ser-177 and Thr-155, both located in CDK consensus motifs. A single phosphorylation site at Ser-8 in the NH2-terminal tail was also found. Mouse H1t lacks Ser-186 and is phosphorylated at up to four sites. In contrast to somatic linker histones, no strict order of increasing phosphorylation could be detected in H1t. Thus, it appears that not the order of up-phosphorylation but the number of the phosphate groups is necessary for regulated chromatin decondensation, thus facilitating the substitution of H1t by transition proteins and protamines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs / physiology
  • Animals
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly / physiology*
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity / physiology
  • Phosphorylation / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Species Specificity
  • Spermatids / cytology
  • Spermatids / metabolism*
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / metabolism*


  • Histones