The impact of solubility and electrostatics on fibril formation by the H3 and H4 histones



The goal of this study was to examine fibril formation by the heterodimeric eukaryotic histones (H2A-H2B and H3-H4) and homodimeric archaeal histones (hMfB and hPyA1). The histone fold dimerization motif is an obligatorily domain-swapped structure comprised of two fused helix:β-loop:helix motifs. Domain swapping has been proposed as a mechanism for the evolution of protein oligomers as well as a means to form precursors in the formation of amyloid-like fibrils. Despite sharing a common fold, the eukaryotic histones of the core nucleosome and archaeal histones fold by kinetic mechanisms of differing complexity with transient population of partially folded monomeric and/or dimeric species. No relationship was apparent between fibrillation propensity and equilibrium stability or population of kinetic intermediates. Only H3 and H4, as isolated monomers and as a heterodimer, readily formed fibrils at room temperature, and this propensity correlates with the significantly lower solubility of these polypeptides. The fibrils were characterized by ThT fluorescence, FTIR, and far-UV CD spectroscopies and electron microscopy. The helical histone fold comprises the protease-resistant core of the fibrils, with little or no protease protection of the poorly structured N-terminal tails. The highly charged tails inhibit fibrillation through electrostatic repulsion. Kinetic studies indicate that H3 and H4 form a co-fibril, with simultaneous incorporation of both histones. The potential impact of H3 and H4 fibrillation on the cytotoxicity of extracellular histones and α-synuclein-mediated neurotoxicity and fibrillation is considered.