In this study, we have constructed synthetic peptides which are identical to hyperacetylated amino termini of two Tetrahymena core histones (tetra-acetylated H4 and penta-acetylated hv1) and used them to generate polyclonal antibodies specific for acetylated forms (mono-, di-, tri-, etc.) of these histones. Neither of these antisera recognizes histone that is unacetylated. Immunoblotting analyses demonstrate that both transcription-related and deposition-related acetate groups on H4 are recognized by both antisera. In addition, the antiserum raised against penta-acetylated hv1 also recognizes acetylated forms of this variant. Immunofluorescent analyses with both antisera demonstrate that, as expected, histone acetylation is specific to macronuclei (or new macronuclei) at all stages of the life cycle except when micronuclei undergo periods of rapid replication and chromatin assembly. During this time micronuclear staining is also detected. Our results also suggest that transcription-related acetylation begins selectively in new macronuclei immediately after the second postzygotic division. Acetylated histone is not observed in new micronuclei during stages corresponding to anlagen development and, therefore, histone acetylation can be distributed asymmetrically in development. Equally striking is the rapid turnover of acetylated histone in parental macronuclei during the time of their inactivation and elimination from the cell. Taken together, these data lend strong support to the idea that modulation of histone acetylation plays an important role in gene activation and in chromatin assembly.

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