Linker histones stabilize the intrinsic salt-dependent folding of nucleosomal arrays: mechanistic ramifications for higher-order chromatin folding.

Research paper by L M LM Carruthers, J J Bednar, C L CL Woodcock, J C JC Hansen

Indexed on: 21 Oct '98Published on: 21 Oct '98Published in: Biochemistry


Defined nucleosomal arrays reconstituted from core histone octamers and twelve 208 bp tandem repeats of Lytechinus 5S rDNA (208-12 nucleosomal arrays) possess the ability to form an unstable folded species in MgCl2 whose extent of compaction equals that of canonical higher-order 30 nm diameter chromatin structures [Schwarz, P. M., and Hansen, J. C. (1994) J. Biol. Chem. 269, 16284-16289]. To address the mechanistic functions of linker histones in chromatin condensation, purified histone H5 has been assembled with 208-12 nucleosomal arrays in 50 mM NaCl. Novel purification procedures subsequently were developed that yielded preparations of 208-12 chromatin model systems in which a majority of the sample contained both one histone octamer per 5S rDNA repeat and one molecule of histone H5 per histone octamer. The integrity of the purified 208-12 chromatin has been extensively characterized under low-salt conditions using analytical ultracentrifugation, quantitative agarose gel electrophoresis, electron cryomicroscopy, and nuclease digestion. Results indicate that histone H5 binding to 208-12 nucleosomal arrays constrains the entering and exiting linker DNA in a way that produces structures that are indistinguishable from native chicken erythrocyte chromatin. Folding experiments performed in NaC1 and MgC12 have shown that H5 binding markedly stabilizes both the intermediate and extensively folded states of nucleosomal arrays without fundamentally altering the intrinsic nucleosomal array folding pathway. These results provide new insight into the mechanism of chromatin folding by demonstrating for the first time that distinctly different macromolecular determinants are required for formation and stabilization of higher-order chromatin structures.