Post-translational modifications of histone proteins in conjunction with DNA methylation represent important events in the regulation of local and global genome functions. Advances in the study of these chromatin modifications established temporal and spatial co-localization of several distinct ‘marks’ on the same histone and/or the same nucleosome. Such complex modification patterns suggest the possibility of combinatorial effects. This idea was originally proposed to establish a code of histone modifications that regulates the interpretation of the genetic code of DNA. Indeed, interdependency of different modifications is now well documented in the literature. Our current understanding is that the function of a given histone modification is influenced by neighbouring or additional modifications. Such context sensitivity of the readout of a modification provides more flexible translation than would be possible if distinct modifications function as isolated units. The mechanistic principles for modification cross-talk can originate in the modulation of the activity of histone-modifying enzymes or may be due to selective recognition of these marks via modification of specific binding proteins. In the present chapter, we discuss fundamental biochemical principles of modification cross-talk and reflect on the interplay of chromatin marks in cellular signalling, cell-cycle progression and cell-fate determination.

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