Hyperacetylation of core histones does not cause unfolding of nucleosomes. Neutron scatter data accords with disc shape of the nucleosome

B. S. Imai, P. Yau, J. P. Baldwin, K. Ibel, R. P. May, E. M. Bradbury

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Recent studies report that the frictional resistance of partially acetylated core particles increases when the number of acetyl groups/particle exceeds 10 (Bode, J., Gomez-Lira, M.M. & Schroter, H. (1983) Eur. J. Biochem. 130, 437-445). This was attributed to an opening of the core particle though other explanations, e.g. unwinding of the DNA ends were also suggested. Another possible explanation is that release of the core histone N-terminal domains by acetylation increased the frictional resistance of the particle. Neuron scatter studies have been performed on core particles acetylated to different levels up to 2.4 acetates/H4 molecule. Up to this level of acetylation the neutron scatter data show no evidence for unfolding of the core particle. The fundamental scatter functions for the envelope shape and internal structure are identical to those obtained previously for bulk core particles. The structure that gave the best fit to these fundamental scatter functions was a flat disc of diameter 11-11.5 nm and of thickness 5.5-6 nm with 1.7 ± 0.2 turns of DNA coiled with a pitch of 3.0 nm around a core of the histone octamer. The data analysis emphasizes the changes in pair distance distribution functions at relatively low contrasts, particularly when the protein is contrast matched and DNA dominates the scatter. Under these conditions there is no evidence for the unwinding of long DNA ends in the hyperacetylated core particles. The distance distribution functions go to zero between 11.5 and 12 nm which gives the maximum chord length in a particle of dimension, 11 nm x 5.5 nm. The distance distribution function for the histone octamer contains 85% of the vectors within the 7.0-nm diameter of the histone core. 15% of the histone vectors lie between 7.0 and 12.0 nm, and these are attributed to the N-terminal domains of the core histones which extend out from the central histone core. Histone vectors extending beyond 7.0 nm are necessary to account for the measured radius of gyration of the histone core of 3.3 nm. A similar value of 3.2 nm is calculated for the recent ellipsoidal shape of 11.0 x 6.5 x 6.5 nm from the crystal structure of the octamer. However, the nucleosome model based on this structure is globular, roughly 11 nm in diameter, which does not accord with the flat disc shape core particle obtained from detailed neutron scatter data nor with the cross-section radii of gyration of the histone and DNA found previously for extended chromatin in solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8784-8792
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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