The view of DNA packaging into chromatin as a mere obstacle to DNA repair is evolving. In this review, we focus on histone variants and heterochromatin proteins as chromatin components involved in distinct levels of chromatin organization to integrate them as real players in the DNA damage response (DDR). Based on recent data, we highlight how some of these chromatin components play active roles in the DDR and contribute to the fine-tuning of damage signaling, DNA and chromatin repair. To take into account this integrated view, we revisit the existing access-repair-restore model and propose a new working model involving priming chromatin for repair and restoration as a concerted process. We discuss how this impacts on both genomic and epigenomic stability and plasticity.
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