Document Type


Publication Date

November 2006


This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1089:73-87, November 2006. The definitive version is available at


The position effect variegation in Drosophila and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and higher-order chromatin structure regulation in yeast, is orchestrated by modifier genes of the Su(var) group, (e.g., histone deacetylases ([HDACs]), protein phosphatases) and enhancer E(Var) group (e.g., ATP [adenosine 5'-triphosphate]-dependent nucleosome remodeling proteins). Higher-order chromatin structure is regulated in part by covalent modification of the N-terminal histone tails of chromatin, and histone tails in turn serve as platforms for recruitment of signaling modules that include nonhistone proteins such as heterochromatin protein (HP1) and NuRD. Because the enzymes governing chromatin structure through covalent modifications of histones (acetylation, methylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitination) can also target nonhistone substrates, a mechanism is in place by which epigenetic regulatory processes can affect the function of these alternate substrates. The posttranslational modification of histones, through phosphorylation and acetylation at specific residues, alters chromatin structure in an orchestrated manner in response to specific signals and is considered the basis of a "histone code." In an analogous manner, specific residues within transcription factors form a signaling module within the transcription factor to determine genetic target specificity and cellular fate. The architecture of these signaling cascades in transcription factors (SCITs) are poorly understood. The regulation of estrogen receptor (ERalpha) by enzymes that convey epigenetic signals is carefully orchestrated and is reviewed here.