Histone H3.Y is conserved among primates. We previously reported that exogenously produced H3.Y accumulates around transcription start sites, suggesting that it may play a role in transcription regulation. The H3.Y nucleosome forms a relaxed chromatin conformation with flexible DNA ends. The H3.Y-specific Lys42 residue is partly responsible for enhancing the flexibility of the nucleosomal DNA. To our surprise, we found that H3.Y stably associates with chromatin and nucleosomes in vivo and in vitro. However, the H3.Y residues responsible for its stable nucleosome incorporation have not been identified yet. In the present study, we performed comprehensive mutational analyses of H3.Y, and determined that the H3.Y C-terminal region including amino acid residues 124–135 is responsible for its stable association with DNA. Among the H3.Y C-terminal residues, the H3.Y Met124 residue significantly contributed to the stable DNA association with the H3.Y-H4 tetramer. The H3.Y M124I mutation substantially reduced the H3.Y-H4 association in the nucleosome. In contrast, the H3.Y K42R mutation affected the nucleosome stability less, although it contributes to the flexible DNA ends of the nucleosome. Therefore, these H3.Y-specific residues, Lys42 and Met124, play different and specific roles in nucleosomal DNA relaxation and stable nucleosome formation, respectively, in chromatin.
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