The missing link er: emerging trends for H1 variant-specific functions

Genes Dev. 2021 Jan 1;35(1-2):40-58. doi: 10.1101/gad.344531.120.


Major advances in the chromatin and epigenetics fields have uncovered the importance of core histones, histone variants and their post-translational modifications (PTMs) in modulating chromatin structure. However, an acutely understudied related feature of chromatin structure is the role of linker histone H1. Previous assumptions of the functional redundancy of the 11 nonallelic H1 variants are contrasted by their strong evolutionary conservation, variability in their potential PTMs, and increased reports of their disparate functions, sub-nuclear localizations and unique expression patterns in different cell types. The commonly accepted notion that histone H1 functions solely in chromatin compaction and transcription repression is now being challenged by work from multiple groups. These studies highlight histone H1 variants as underappreciated facets of chromatin dynamics that function independently in various chromatin-based processes. In this review, we present notable findings involving the individual somatic H1 variants of which there are seven, underscoring their particular contributions to distinctly significant chromatin-related processes.

Keywords: H1; chromatin; histone; histone variant; linker histone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Chromatin
  • Histones