GlcNAcylation of histone H2B facilitates its monoubiquitination

Nature. 2011 Nov 27;480(7378):557-60. doi: 10.1038/nature10656.


Chromatin reorganization is governed by multiple post-translational modifications of chromosomal proteins and DNA. These histone modifications are reversible, dynamic events that can regulate DNA-driven cellular processes. However, the molecular mechanisms that coordinate histone modification patterns remain largely unknown. In metazoans, reversible protein modification by O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) is catalysed by two enzymes, O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) and O-GlcNAcase (OGA). However, the significance of GlcNAcylation in chromatin reorganization remains elusive. Here we report that histone H2B is GlcNAcylated at residue S112 by OGT in vitro and in living cells. Histone GlcNAcylation fluctuated in response to extracellular glucose through the hexosamine biosynthesis pathway (HBP). H2B S112 GlcNAcylation promotes K120 monoubiquitination, in which the GlcNAc moiety can serve as an anchor for a histone H2B ubiquitin ligase. H2B S112 GlcNAc was localized to euchromatic areas on fly polytene chromosomes. In a genome-wide analysis, H2B S112 GlcNAcylation sites were observed widely distributed over chromosomes including transcribed gene loci, with some sites co-localizing with H2B K120 monoubiquitination. These findings suggest that H2B S112 GlcNAcylation is a histone modification that facilitates H2BK120 monoubiquitination, presumably for transcriptional activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • HeLa Cells
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Ubiquitination


  • Histones
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Acetylglucosamine