Histone variants: Emerging players in cancer biology

Chiara Vardabasso, Dan Hasson, Kajan Ratnakumar, Chi Yeh Chung, Luis F. Duarte, Emily Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Histone variants are key players in shaping chromatin structure, and, thus, in regulating fundamental cellular processes such as chromosome segregation and gene expression. Emerging evidence points towards a role for histone variants in contributing to tumor progression, and, recently, the first cancer-associated mutation in a histone variant-encoding gene was reported. In addition, genetic alterations of the histone chaperones that specifically regulate chromatin incorporation of histone variants are rapidly being uncovered in numerous cancers. Collectively, these findings implicate histone variants as potential drivers of cancer initiation and/or progression, and, therefore, targeting histone deposition or the chromatin remodeling machinery may be of therapeutic value. Here, we review the mammalian histone variants of the H2A and H3 families in their respective cellular functions, and their involvement in tumor biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-404
Number of pages26
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Cancer
  • Chromatin remodeler
  • Histone chaperones
  • Histone post-translational modifications
  • Histone variants


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