Histone exchange is associated with activator function at transcribed promoters and with repression at histone loci

Sci Adv. 2020 Sep 2;6(36):eabb0333. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abb0333. Print 2020 Sep.


Transcription in eukaryotes correlates with major chromatin changes, including the replacement of old nucleosomal histones by new histones at the promoters of genes. The role of these histone exchange events in transcription remains unclear. In particular, the causal relationship between histone exchange and activator binding, preinitiation complex (PIC) assembly, and/or subsequent transcription remains unclear. Here, we provide evidence that histone exchange at gene promoters is not simply a consequence of PIC assembly or transcription but instead is mediated by activators. We further show that not all activators up-regulate gene expression by inducing histone turnover. Thus, histone exchange does not simply correlate with transcriptional activity, but instead reflects the mode of action of the activator. Last, we show that histone turnover is not only associated with activator function but also plays a role in transcriptional repression at the histone loci.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly*
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Histones* / genetics
  • Histones* / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Histones