Conservation and divergence of the histone code in nucleomorphs

Georgi K. Marinov, Michael Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Nucleomorphs, the remnant nuclei of photosynthetic algae that have become endosymbionts to other eukaryotes, represent a unique example of convergent reductive genome evolution in eukaryotes, having evolved independently on two separate occasions in chlorarachniophytes and cryptophytes. The nucleomorphs of the two groups have evolved in a remarkably convergent manner, with numerous very similar features. Chief among them is the extreme reduction and compaction of nucleomorph genomes, with very small chromosomes and extremely short or even completely absent intergenic spaces. These characteristics pose a number of intriguing questions regarding the mechanisms of transcription and gene regulation in such a crowded genomic context, in particular in terms of the functioning of the histone code, which is common to almost all eukaryotes and plays a central role in chromatin biology. Results: This study examines the sequences of nucleomorph histone proteins in order to address these issues. Remarkably, all classical transcription- and repression-related components of the histone code seem to be missing from chlorarachniophyte nucleomorphs. Cryptophyte nucleomorph histones are generally more similar to the conventional eukaryotic state; however, they also display significant deviations from the typical histone code. Based on the analysis of specific components of the code, we discuss the state of chromatin and the transcriptional machinery in these nuclei. Conclusions: The results presented here shed new light on the mechanisms of nucleomorph transcription and gene regulation and provide a foundation for future studies of nucleomorph chromatin and transcriptional biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalBiology Direct
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 5 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Chromatin
  • Histone code
  • Histones
  • Nucleomorphs
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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