Histones are punctuated with small chemical modifications that alter their interaction with DNA. One attractive hypothesis stipulates that certain combinations of these histone modifications may function, alone or together, as a part of a predictive histone code to provide ground rules for chromatin folding. We consider four features that relate histone modifications to chromatin folding: charge neutralisation, molecular specificity, robustness and evolvability. Next, we present evidence for the association among different histone modifications at various levels of chromatin organisation and show how these relationships relate to function such as transcription, replication and cell division. Finally, we propose a model where the histone code can set critical checkpoints for chromatin to fold reversibly between different orders of the organisation in response to a biological stimulus.
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