The linker histone H1 is involved in maintaining higher-order chromatin structures and displays dynamic nuclear mobility, which may be regulated by posttranslational modifications. To analyze the effect of H1 tail phosphorylation on the modulation of the histone's nuclear dynamics, we generated a mutant histone H1, referred to as M1-5, in which the five cyclin-dependent kinase phosphorylation consensus sites were mutated from serine or threonine residues into alanines. Cyclin E/CDK2 or cyclin A/CDK2 cannot phosphorylate the mutant in vitro. Using the technique of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, we observed that the mobility of a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-M1-5 fusion protein is decreased compared to that of a GFP-wild-type H1 fusion protein. In addition, recovery of H1 correlated with CDK2 activity, as GFP-H1 mobility was decreased in cells with low CDK2 activity. Blocking the activity of CDK2 by p21 expression decreased the mobility of GFP-H1 but not that of GFP-M1-5. Finally, the level and rate of recovery of cyan fluorescent protein (CFP)-M1-5 were lower than those of CFP-H1 specifically in heterochromatic regions. These data suggest that CDK2 phosphorylates histone H1 in vivo, resulting in a more open chromatin structure by destabilizing H1-chromatin interactions.
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