DNA damage detection and repair take place in the context of chromatin, and histone proteins play important roles in these events. Post-translational modifications of histone proteins are involved in repair and DNA damage signalling processes in response to genotoxic stresses. In particular, acetylation of histones H3 and H4 plays an important role in the mammalian and yeast DNA damage response and survival under genotoxic stress. However, the role of post-translational modifications to histones during the plant DNA damage response is currently poorly understood. Several different acetylated H3 and H4 N-terminal peptides following X-ray treatment were identified using MS analysis of purified histones, revealing previously unseen patterns of histone acetylation in Arabidopsis. Immunoblot analysis revealed an increase in the relative abundance of the H3 acetylated N-terminus, and a global decrease in hyperacetylation of H4 in response to DNA damage induced by X-rays. Conversely, mutants in the key DNA damage signalling factor ATM (ATAXIA TELANGIECTASIA MUTATED) display increased histone acetylation upon irradiation, linking the DNA damage response with dynamic changes in histone modification in plants.

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