Packing of about two meters of the human genome DNA into chromatin occupying a several micron-sized cell nucleus requires a high degree of compaction in a manner that allows the information encoded on DNA to remain easily accessible. This packing is mediated by repeated coiling of DNA double helix around histones to form nucleosome arrays that are further folded into higher-order structures. Relatively straight DNA linkers separate the nucleosomes and the spacing between consecutive nucleosome varies between different cells and between different chromosomal loci. In a recent work1 our group used a biochemically defined in vitro reconstituted system to explore how do various DNA linkers mediate nucleosome array packing into higher-order chromatin structures. For long nucleosome linkers (about 60 bp) we observed a more open chromatin structure and no effect of small linker length alterations (±2-4 bp) on chromatin folding. In striking contrast, for shorter linkers (20-32 bp) we found more compact packing with strong periodical dependence upon the linker DNA lengths. Our data together with high-resolution nucleosome position mapping provide evidence for the natural nucleosome repeats to support a chromatin architecture that, by default, restricts spontaneous folding of nucleosome arrays into compact chromatin fibers. We suggest that incomplete folding of the nucleosome arrays may promote global inter-array interactions that lead to chromatin condensation in metaphase chromosomes and heterochromatin.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology