Molecular characterization of the histone gene family of Caenorhabditis elegans

Susan Boseman Roberts, Michele Sanicola, Scott W. Emmons, Geoffrey Childs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The core histone genes (H2A, H2B, H3 and H4) of Caenorhabditis elegans are arranged in approximately 11 dispersed clusters and are not tandemly arrayed in the genome. Three well-characterized genomic clones, which contain histone genes, have one copy of each core histone gene per cluster. One of the clones (λCeh-1) carries one histone cluster surrounded by several thousand base-pairs of non-histone DNA, and another clone (λCeh-3) contains a histone cluster duplication surrounded by non-histone DNA. A third clone (λCeh-2) carries a cluster of core histone genes flanked on one side (12,000 base-pairs away) by a single H2B gene and on the other by non-histone DNA. A fourth cluster (clone BE9) has one copy each of H3 and H4 and two copies each of H2A and H2B. This cluster is also flanked by non-histone DNA. Analysis of cosmid clones which overlap three of the clusters shows that no other histone clusters are closer than 8000 to 60,000 base-pairs, although unidentified non-histone transcription units are present on the flanking regions. Gene order within the histone clusters varies, and histone mRNAs are transcribed from both DNA strands. No H1 sequences are found on these core histone clones. Restriction fragment length polymorphisms between two related nematode strains (Bristol and Bergerac) were used as phenotypic markers in genetic crosses to map one histone cluster to linkage group V and another to linkage group IV. Hybridization of gene-specific probes from sea urchin to C. elegans RNA identifies C. elegans core histone messenger RNAs of sizes similar to sea urchin early stage histone mRNAs (H2A. H2B, H3 and H4). The organization of histone genes in C. elegans resembles the clustering found in most vertebrate organisms and does not resemble the tandem patterns of the early stage histone gene family of sea urchins or the major histone locus of Drosophila.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 5 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology


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