Histone H2A has several variants, and changes in chromatin composition associated with their replacement might involve chromatin structure remodeling. We examined the dynamics of the canonical histone H2A and its three variants, H2A.X, H2A.Z and macroH2A, in the mouse during oogenesis and pre-implantation development when genome remodeling occurs. Immunocytochemistry with specific antibodies revealed that, although H2A and all variants were deposited in the nuclei of fullgrown oocytes, only histone H2A.X was abundant in the pronuclei of one-cell embryos after fertilization, in contrast with the low abundance of histone H2A and the absence of H2A.Z. The decline in H2A and the depletion of H2A.Z and macroH2A after fertilization were confirmed using Flag epitope-tagged H2A, H2A.Z and macroH2A transgenic mouse lines. Microinjection experiments with mRNA encoding the Flag-tagged proteins revealed a similar pattern of nuclear incorporation of the H2A variants. Fusion protein experiments using H2A, H2A.Z and macroH2A fused with the C-terminal 23 amino acids of H2A.X showed that the C-terminal amino acids of H2A.X function specifically to target this variant histone into chromatin in embryos after fertilization and that the absence of H2A.Z and macroH2A from the chromatin is required for normal development. These results suggest that global changes in the composition of histone H2A variants in chromatin play a role in genome remodeling after fertilization.
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