Histone H1 was purified from bovine thymus and radiolabeled with tritium by reductive methylation or with 125I using chloramine-T. Red blood cell-mediated microinjection was then used to introduce the labeled H1 molecules into HeLa cells synchronized in S phase. The injected H1 molecules rapidly entered HeLa nuclei, and a number of tests indicate that their association with chromatin was equivalent to that endogenous histone H1. The injected molecules copurified with HeLa cell nucleosomes, exhibited a half-life of approximately 100 h, and were hyperphosphorylated at mitosis. When injected HeLa cells were fused with mouse 3T3 fibroblasts less than 10% of the labeled H1 molecules migrated to mouse nuclei during the next 48 h. Thus, the intracellular behavior of histone H1 differs markedly from that of high mobility group proteins 1 and 2 (HMG1 and HMG2), which rapidly equilibrate between human and mouse nuclei after heterokaryon formation (Rechsteiner, M., and L. Kuehl, 1979, Cell, 16:901-908; Wu, L., M. Rechsteiner, and L. Kuehl, 1981, J. Cell Biol, 91: 488-496). Despite their slow rate of migration between nuclei, the injected H1 molecules were evenly distributed on mouse and human genomes soon after mitosis of HeLa-3T3 heterokaryons. These results suggest that although most histone H1 molecules are stably associated with interphase chromatin, they undergo extensive redistribution after mitosis.

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