Nucleosomal incorporation of specialized histone variants is an important mechanism to generate different functional chromatin states. Here we report the identification and characterization of two novel primate-specific histone H3 variants, H3.X and H3.Y. Their mRNAs are found in certain human cell lines, in addition to several normal and malignant human tissues. In keeping with their primate-specificity, H3.X and H3.Y are detected in different brain regions. Transgenic H3.X and H3.Y proteins are stably incorporated into chromatin in a similar fashion to the known H3 variants. Importantly, we demonstrate biochemically and by mass spectrometry that endogenous posttranslationally modified H3.Y protein exists in vivo, and that stress-stimuli, such as starvation and cellular density, increase the abundance of H3.Y-expressing cells. Global transcriptome analysis revealed that knock-down of H3.Y affects cell growth and leads to changes in the expression of many genes involved in cell cycle control. Thus, H3.Y is a novel histone variant involved in the regulation of cellular responses to outside stimuli.