Structure and function of histone H2AX

Subcell Biochem. 2010;50:55-78. doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-3471-7_4.


Histone H2AX is a histone variant found in almost all eukaryotes. It makes a central contribution to genome stability through its role in the signaling of DNA damage events and by acting as a foundation for the assembly of repair foci. The H2AX protein sequence is highly similar and in some cases overlapping with replication-dependent canonical H2A, yet the H2AX gene and protein structures exhibit a number of features specific to the role of this histone in DNA repair. The most well known of these is a specific serine at the extreme C-terminus of H2AX which is phosphorylated by Phosphoinositide-3-Kinase-related protein Kinases (PIKKs) to generate the gammaH2AX mark. However, recent studies have demonstrated that phosphorylation, ubiquitylation and other post-translational modifications are also crucial for function. H2AX transcript properties suggest a capability to respond to damage events. Furthermore, the biochemical properties of H2AX protein within the nucleosome structure and its distribution within chromatin also point to features linked to its role in the DNA damage response. In particular, the theoretical inter-nucleosomal spacing of H2AX and the potential implications of amino acid residues distinguishing H2AX from canonical H2A in structure and dynamics are considered in detail. This review summarises current understanding of H2AX from a structure-function perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Histones / chemistry*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Histones / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • H2AX protein, human
  • Histones