Review Volume 9, Issue 3 pp 602—614
The histone variant H3.3 claims its place in the crowded scene of epigenetics
- 1 German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), 53127 Bonn, Germany
received: November 14, 2016 ; accepted: February 26, 2017 ; published: March 10, 2017 ;https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.101194
How to Cite
Histones are evolutionarily conserved DNA-binding proteins. As scaffolding molecules, they significantly regulate the DNA packaging into the nucleus of all eukaryotic cells. As docking units, they influence the recruitment of the transcriptional machinery, thus establishing unique gene expression patterns that ultimately promote different biological outcomes. While canonical histones H3.1 and H3.2 are synthetized and loaded during DNA replication, the histone variant H3.3 is expressed and deposited into the chromatin throughout the cell cycle. Recent findings indicate that H3.3 replaces the majority of canonical H3 in non-dividing cells, reaching almost saturation levels in a time-dependent manner. Consequently, H3.3 incorporation and turnover represent an additional layer in the regulation of the chromatin landscape during aging. In this respect, work from our group and others suggest that H3.3 plays an important function in age-related processes throughout evolution. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on H3.3 biology and discuss the implications of its aberrant dynamics in the establishment of cellular states that may lead to human pathology. Critically, we review the importance of H3.3 turnover as part of epigenetic events that influence senescence and age-related processes. We conclude with the emerging evidence that H3.3 is required for proper neuronal function and brain plasticity.