High mobility group N (HMGN) is a family of intrinsically disordered nuclear proteins that bind to nucleosomes, alters the structure of chromatin and affects transcription. A major unresolved question is the extent of functional specificity, or redundancy, between the various members of the HMGN protein family. Here, we analyze the transcriptional profile of cells in which the expression of various HMGN proteins has been either deleted or doubled. We find that both up- and downregulation of HMGN expression altered the cellular transcription profile. Most, but not all of the changes were variant specific, suggesting limited redundancy in transcriptional regulation. Analysis of point and swap HMGN mutants revealed that the transcriptional specificity is determined by a unique combination of a functional nucleosome-binding domain and C-terminal domain. Doubling the amount of HMGN had a significantly larger effect on the transcription profile than total deletion, suggesting that the intrinsically disordered structure of HMGN proteins plays an important role in their function. The results reveal an HMGN-variant-specific effect on the fidelity of the cellular transcription profile, indicating that functionally the various HMGN subtypes are not fully redundant.
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