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Histone Acetylation and Deacetylation

Epigenetic Regulation and Epigenomics

  1. Daniel M. Fass1,
  2. Melissa M. Kemp2,
  3. Frederick A. Schroeder3,
  4. Florence F. Wagner1,
  5. Qiu Wang4,
  6. Edward B. Holson1

Published Online: 15 MAY 2012

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.201100036

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Fass, D. M., Kemp, M. M., Schroeder, F. A., Wagner, F. F., Wang, Q. and Holson, E. B. 2012. Histone Acetylation and Deacetylation. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Cambridge, MA, USA

  2. 2

    Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Chemical Biology, Cambridge, MA, USA

  3. 3

    Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

  4. 4

    Duke University, Department of Chemistry, Durham, NC, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAY 2012


Gene expression in eukaryotic organisms can be influenced by a host of internal and external stimuli. The magnitude and duration of the response can often determine the effect of a diverse array of biological functions, many of which can be driven by gene expression. The catalog of possibilities encoded within an organism's primary DNA sequence is heritable and, by design, is immutable in response to these temporally defined internal and external factors and events. It has become increasingly evident that the primary sequence alone is not the only determinant of phenotype and function. Rather, epigenetic mechanisms can influence gene expression without directly affecting the primary DNA sequence. These epigenetic mechanisms can affect gene expression directly via the modification of DNA, or indirectly via the modification of chromatin (storage state of DNA). The acetylation and deacetylation of the N-terminal tails of histones (the core protein component of chromatin) represents an important epigenetic mechanism which affects chromatin structure and, ultimately genomic response, via gene expression. The regulation of histone acetylation status is tightly balanced by the opposing function of two families of enzymes: the HATs (histone acetyltransferases) and the HDACs (histone deacetylases). The function and regulation of these enzymes, which is highly conserved in evolution, can have a profound effect on a multitude of biological processes including transcription, DNA repair and replication, and cellular differentiation.


  • Chromatin;
  • Euchromatin;
  • Heterochromatin;
  • Nucleosome;
  • Histones;
  • Acetylation;
  • Deacetylation;
  • HDACs (histone deacetylases);
  • HATs (histone acetyltranferases);
  • Sirtuins