Beta-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is part of the histone code

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Nov 16;107(46):19915-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009023107. Epub 2010 Nov 2.


Dynamic posttranslational modification of serine and threonine residues of nucleocytoplasmic proteins by β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is a regulator of cellular processes such as transcription, signaling, and protein-protein interactions. Like phosphorylation, O-GlcNAc cycles in response to a wide variety of stimuli. Although cycling of O-GlcNAc is catalyzed by only two highly conserved enzymes, O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT), which adds the sugar, and β-N-acetylglucosaminidase (O-GlcNAcase), which hydrolyzes it, the targeting of these enzymes is highly specific and is controlled by myriad interacting subunits. Here, we demonstrate by multiple specific immunological and enzymatic approaches that histones, the proteins that package DNA within the nucleus, are O-GlcNAcylated in vivo. Histones also are substrates for OGT in vitro. We identify O-GlcNAc sites on histones H2A, H2B, and H4 using mass spectrometry. Finally, we show that histone O-GlcNAcylation changes during mitosis and with heat shock. Taken together, these data show that O-GlcNAc cycles dynamically on histones and can be considered part of the histone code.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Glycosylation
  • HeLa Cells
  • Heat-Shock Response
  • Histone Code*
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases
  • O-GlcNAc transferase
  • Acetylglucosamine