Histone Ubiquitylation and the Regulation of Transcription

  • Mary Ann OsleyEmail author
  • Alastair B. Fleming
  • Cheng-Fu Kao
Part of the Results and Problems in Cell Differentiation book series (RESULTS, volume 41)


The small (76 amino acids) and highly conserved ubiquitin protein plays key roles in the physiology of eukaryotic cells. Protein ubiquitylation has emerged as one of the most important intracellular signaling mechanisms, and in 2004 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Aaron Ciechanower, Avram Hersko, and Irwin Rose for their pioneering studies of the enzymology of ubiquitin attachment. One of the most common features of protein ubiquitylation is the attachment of polyubiquitin chains (four or more ubiquitin moieties attached to each other), which is a widely used mechanism to target proteins for degradation via the 26S proteosome. However, it is noteworthy that the first ubiquitylated protein to be identified was histone H2A, to which a single ubiquitin moiety is most commonly attached. Following this discovery, other histones (H2B, H3, H1, H2A.Z, macroH2A), as well as many nonhistone proteins, have been found to be monoubiquitylated. The role of monoubiquitylation is still elusive because a single ubiquitin moiety is not sufficient to target proteins for turnover, and has been hypothesized to control the assembly or disassembly of multiprotein complexes by providing a protein-binding site. Indeed, a number of ubiquitin-binding domains have now been identified in both polyubiquitylated and monoubiquitylated proteins. Despite the early discovery of ubiquitylated histones, it has only been in the last five or so years that we have begun to understand how histone ubiquitylation is regulated and what roles it plays in the cell. This review will discuss current research on the factors that regulate the attachment and removal of ubiquitin from histones, describe the relationship of histone ubiquitylation to histone methylation, and focus on the roles of ubiquitylated histones in gene expression.


Silent Chromatin Transcription Elongation Factor Saga Complex Ubiquitin Moiety Protein Ubiquitylation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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The authors thank Shelley Berger, Danny Reinberg, and Yi Zhao for generously sharing unpublished data. Work from the authors' laboratory is supported by a grant from the NIH (GM40118) to M.A.O. and a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Special Fellow award to C.-F.K.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Ann Osley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alastair B. Fleming
    • 1
  • Cheng-Fu Kao
    • 1
  1. 1.Molecular Genetics and MicrobiologyUniversity of New Mexico School of MedicineAlbuquerqueUSA

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