A polarized photobleaching study of chromatin reorientation in intact nuclei

Paul R. Selvin, Bethe A. Scalettar, John P. Langmore, Daniel Axelrod, Melvin P. Klein, John E. Hearst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polarized fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (pFRAP) was used to monitor the effects that condensation, i.e. compaction and aggregation, have on the (μs and ms) internal dynamics of chromatin in intact nuclei. When divalent cations were present with physiological (≈ 90 mm) monovalent salt the chromatin was found to exist in a compact and aggregated state which was characterized by rotational immobilization over timescales that range from 10 microseconds to 40 milliseconds. This immobilization is attributed to suppression of internal dynamics by intermolecular interactions. When the divalent cations were removed, the compact fibers no longer aggregated and were free to reorient with a characteristic decay time of about 1.2 milliseconds. It is shown that this millisecond relaxation could represent rigid rotation of topologically independent structural domains. Dilution of the monovalent salt induced a gradual change in the structural state of the chromatin that was manifest as a dramatic increase in internal flexibility. At the lowest salt concentration studied (11 mm-monovalent salt) the chromatin reorients in fewer than ten microseconds. These changes in flexibility are continuous with salt concentration, indicating that there are no well-defined endpoints to structural transitions and that the microsecond-millisecond internal dynamics of chromatin are a sensitive measure of structure. Measurements made on nuclei from cells that are either transcriptionally quiescent or active indicate that the dynamics mirrors biological activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-922
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 20 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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