Structural dynamics of nucleic acid and protein is an important physical basis of their functions. These motions are often very difficult to synchronize and too fast to be clearly resolved with the currently available single molecule methods. Here we demonstrate a novel hybrid single molecule approach combining stochastic data analysis with fluorescence correlation that enables investigations of sub-ms unsynchronized structural dynamics of macromolecules. Based on the method, we report the first direct evidence of spontaneous DNA motions at the nucleosome termini. The nucleosome, comprising DNA and a histone core, is the fundamental packing unit of eukaryotic genes that must be accessed during various genome transactions. Spontaneous DNA opening at the nucleosome termini has long been hypothesized to enable gene access in the nucleosome, but has yet to be directly observed. Our approach reveals that DNA termini in the nucleosome open and close repeatedly at 0.1-1 ms-1. The kinetics depends on salt concentration and DNA-histone interactions but not much on DNA sequence, suggesting that this dynamics is universal and imposes the kinetic limit to gene access. These results clearly demonstrate that our method provides an efficient and robust means to investigate unsynchronized structural changes of DNA at a sub-ms time resolution.
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