In both plants and animals, DNA is wrapped around nucleosomes. Nucleosomes consist of proteins called histones and help organize DNA into functional units, they are thus critical for all cellular processes that affect DNA. Several different variants of histone proteins evolved. These variants either modify the structural properties of the nucleosome or confer specific properties to chromatin. Some variants exist in all eukaryotes while others are found only in specific groups of species. In addition, chemical modifications of histones regulate nucleosome properties.
The Berger lab investigates the evolution of histone variants and their roles in organizing the genetic information encoded by DNA into units that are readable by the transcription and translation machinery. Genetics, genomics, and biochemical analyses are combined with synthetic strategies to study chromatin in Arabidopsis, Marchantia, unicellular red algae, and fission yeast.