Deciphering the Enigma of the Histone H2A.Z-1/H2A.Z-2 Isoforms: Novel Insights and Remaining Questions

Cells. 2020 May 8;9(5):1167. doi: 10.3390/cells9051167.


The replication independent (RI) histone H2A.Z is one of the more extensively studied variant members of the core histone H2A family, which consists of many replication dependent (RD) members. The protein has been shown to be indispensable for survival, and involved in multiple roles from DNA damage to chromosome segregation, replication, and transcription. However, its functional involvement in gene expression is controversial. Moreover, the variant in several groups of metazoan organisms consists of two main isoforms (H2A.Z-1 and H2A.Z-2) that differ in a few (3-6) amino acids. They comprise the main topic of this review, starting from the events that led to their identification, what is currently known about them, followed by further experimental, structural, and functional insight into their roles. Despite their structural differences, a direct correlation to their functional variability remains enigmatic. As all of this is being elucidated, it appears that a strong functional involvement of isoform variability may be connected to development.

Keywords: H2A.Z-1 and H2A.Z-2; NMR; development; evolution; replication dependent (RD) and replication independent (RI) histone variants; spermatogenesis; transcription.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle
  • Chickens
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Spermatogenesis


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • Protein Isoforms