The structure of a virus-encoded nucleosome

Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2021 May;28(5):413-417. doi: 10.1038/s41594-021-00585-7. Epub 2021 Apr 29.


Certain large DNA viruses, including those in the Marseilleviridae family, encode histones. Here we show that fused histone pairs Hβ-Hα and Hδ-Hγ from Marseillevirus are structurally analogous to the eukaryotic histone pairs H2B-H2A and H4-H3. These viral histones form 'forced' heterodimers, and a heterotetramer of four such heterodimers assembles DNA to form structures virtually identical to canonical eukaryotic nucleosomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA Viruses* / genetics
  • DNA Viruses* / metabolism
  • DNA* / chemistry
  • DNA* / metabolism
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structural Elements
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • DNA