Tryptic digestion of histone H1 from the sperm of the sea urchin Sphaerechinus granularis leaves a limiting peptide of approx. 80 residues that is of similar size to the limit peptide from calf thymus H1 or chicken erythrocyte H5. The S. granularis limit peptide folds to form tertiary structure similar to that of the intact parent histone H1 (shown by n.m.r. spectra), but the helical content is decreased by the digestion from 64 residues to 28. In contrast, intact calf thymus H1 and chicken erythrocyte H5 histones have only about 28 helical residues, which are preserved in their limit peptides. The extra helix in S. granularis is shown to be rapidly digested away by trypsin, and its location in histone H1 is discussed. A possible relationship of this structural feature to the length of linker DNA is proposed.

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