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Nucleic Acids Res. 1994 January 25; 22(2): 174–179.
PMCID: PMC307768

Phylogenetic analysis of the core histones H2A, H2B, H3, and H4.


Despite the ubiquity of histones in eukaryotes and their important role in determining the structure and function of chromatin, no detailed studies of the evolution of the histones have been reported. We have constructed phylogenetic trees for the core histones H2A, H2B, H3, and H4. Histones which form dimers (H2A/H2B and H3/H4) have very similar trees and appear to have co-evolved, with the exception of the divergent sea urchin testis H2Bs, for which no corresponding divergent H2As have been identified. The trees for H2A and H2B also support the theory that animals and fungi have a common ancestor. H3 and H4 are 10-fold less divergent than H2A and H2B. Three evolutionary histories are observed for histone variants. H2A.F/Z-type variants arose once early in evolution, while H2A.X variants arose separately, during the evolution of multicellular animals. H3.3-type variants have arisen in multiple independent events.

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