The enzymes poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase and poly(ADP-ribose) glycohydrolase may cooperate to drive a histone shuttle mechanism in chromatin. The mechanism is triggered by binding of the N-terminal zinc-finger domain of the polymerase to DNA strand breaks, which activates the catalytic activities residing in the C-terminal domain. The polymerase converts into a protein carrying multiple ADP-ribose polymers which displace histones from DNA by specifically targeting the histone tails responsible for DNA condensation. As a result, the domains surrounding DNA strand breaks become accessible to other proteins. Poly(ADP-ribose)glycohydrolase attacks ADP-ribose polymers in a specific order and thereby releases histones for reassociation with DNA. Increasing evidence from different model systems suggests that histone shuttling participates in DNA repair in vivo as a catalyst for nucleosomal unfolding.