Detailed specificity analysis of antibodies binding to modified histone tails with peptide arrays

Epigenetics. 2011 Feb;6(2):256-63. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.2.13837. Epub 2011 Feb 1.


Chromatin structure is greatly influenced by histone tail post-translational modifications (PTM), which also play a central role in epigenetic processes. Antibodies against modified histone tails are central research reagents in chromatin biology and molecular epigenetics. We applied Celluspots peptide arrays for the specificity analysis of 36 commercial antibodies from different suppliers which are directed towards modified histone tails. The arrays contained 384 peptides from 8 different regions of the N-terminal tails of histones, viz. H3 1-19, 7-26, 16-35 and 26-45, H4 1-19 and 11-30, H2A 1-19 and H2B 1-19, featuring 59 post-translational modifications in many different combinations. Using various controls we document the reliability of the method. Our analysis revealed previously undocumented details in the specificity profile. Most of the antibodies bound well to the PTM they have been raised for, but some failed. In addition some antibodies showed high cross-reactivity and most antibodies were inhibited by specific additional PTMs close to the primary one. Furthermore, specificity profiles for antibodies directed towards the same modification sometimes were very different. The specificity of antibodies used in epigenetic research is an important issue. We provide a catalog of antibody specificity profiles for 36 widely used commercial histone tail PTM antibodies. Better knowledge about the specificity profiles of antibodies will enable researchers to implement necessary control experiments in biological studies and allow more reliable interpretation of biological experiments using these antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Antibody Specificity / immunology*
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / immunology*
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / immunology*
  • Protein Array Analysis*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / immunology*


  • Antibodies
  • Chromatin
  • Histones