Histone chaperones: assisting histone traffic and nucleosome dynamics

Annu Rev Biochem. 2014;83:487-517. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-060713-035536.


The functional organization of eukaryotic DNA into chromatin uses histones as components of its building block, the nucleosome. Histone chaperones, which are proteins that escort histones throughout their cellular life, are key actors in all facets of histone metabolism; they regulate the supply and dynamics of histones at chromatin for its assembly and disassembly. Histone chaperones can also participate in the distribution of histone variants, thereby defining distinct chromatin landscapes of importance for genome function, stability, and cell identity. Here, we discuss our current knowledge of the known histone chaperones and their histone partners, focusing on histone H3 and its variants. We then place them into an escort network that distributes these histones in various deposition pathways. Through their distinct interfaces, we show how they affect dynamics during DNA replication, DNA damage, and transcription, and how they maintain genome integrity. Finally, we discuss the importance of histone chaperones during development and describe how misregulation of the histone flow can link to disease.

Keywords: cancer; chromatin; epigenetics; genome function and instability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Chromatin / chemistry*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA, Cruciform / chemistry
  • Histone Chaperones / chemistry*
  • Histones / chemistry*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nucleosomes / chemistry*
  • Protein Binding


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • DNA, Cruciform
  • Histone Chaperones
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • DNA