Acetylation was initially discovered as a post-translational modification (PTM) on the unstructured, highly basic N-terminal tails of eukaryotic histones in the 1960s. Histone acetylation constitutes part of the "histone code", which regulates chromosome compaction and various DNA processes such as gene expression, recombination, and DNA replication. In bacteria, nucleoid-associated proteins (NAPs) are responsible these functions in that they organize and compact the chromosome and regulate some DNA processes. The highly conserved DNABII family of proteins are considered functional homologues of eukaryotic histones despite having no sequence or structural conservation. Within the past decade, a growing interest in Nϵ-lysine acetylation led to the discovery that hundreds of bacterial proteins are acetylated with diverse cellular functions, in direct contrast to the original thought that this was a rare phenomenon. Similarly, other previously undiscovered bacterial PTMs, like serine, threonine, and tyrosine phosphorylation, have also been characterized. In this review, the various PTMs that were discovered among DNABII family proteins, specifically histone-like protein (HU) orthologues, from large-scale proteomic studies are discussed. The functional significance of these modifications and the enzymes involved are also addressed. The discovery of novel PTMs on these proteins begs this question: is there a histone-like code in bacteria?
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