PerspectiveMolecular Biology

Breaking the Silence

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Science  16 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5656, pp. 324-325
DOI: 10.1126/science.1093990

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The genome is divided into areas of condensed chromatin (heterochromatin) where genes are transcriptionally silent and regions of accessible chromatin where the majority of actively expressed genes reside. In their Perspective, Owen-Hughes and Bruno discuss new work ( Mizugu-chi et al.) that pinpoints the Swr1 ATPase as a crucial player in preventing the spread of silencing. The Swr1 adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) catalyzes the exchange of H2A/H2B histone dimers in nucleosomes for H2A.Z/H2B dimers. The H2A.Z histone variant incorporated into nucleosomes then acts as a buffer against the spread of silencing.