The linker histone H1degree accumulates in terminally differentiating cells and replaces other members of the H1 histone family, even in the absence of cell division. To study the role of H1degree in vivo, we have created two lines of transgenic mice with either the human H1degree promoter (HH minigene) or the mouse metallothionein T promoter (MH minigene) upstream of the human H1degree gene. Mice bearing the minigenes HH or MH overexpress human H1degree mRNA at 10-20-fold higher levels than in normal mice in a constitutive or metal-inducible manner. In contrast to this increase in mRNA content, which was studied in liver, kidney and brain, no significant changes in the relative proportions of the H1 protein subtypes, including H1degree were observed. Transgenic mice exhibited normal anatomic phenotypes, growth rates and reproduction rates. Thus, our results suggest a posttranscriptional and/or translational mechanism that compensates the unbalanced linker-histone expression in different tissues.