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J Biol Chem. 2000 Nov 24;275(47):37285-90.

The core histone N termini function independently of linker histones during chromatin condensation.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas 78229, USA.


The relationships between the core histone N termini and linker histones during chromatin assembly and salt-dependent chromatin condensation were investigated using defined chromatin model systems reconstituted from tandemly repeated 5 S rDNA, histone H5, and either native "intact" core histone octamers or "tailless" histone octamers lacking their N-terminal domains. Nuclease digestion and sedimentation studies indicate that H5 binding and the resulting constraint of entering and exiting nucleosomal DNA occur to the same extent in both tailless and intact chromatin arrays. However, despite possessing a normal chromatosomal structure, tailless chromatin arrays can neither condense into extensively folded structures nor cooperatively oligomerize in MgCl(2). Tailless nucleosomal arrays lacking linker histones also are unable to either fold extensively or oligomerize, demonstrating that the core histone N termini perform the same functions during salt-dependent condensation regardless of whether linker histones are components of the array. Our results further indicate that disruption of core histone N termini function in vitro allows a linker histone-containing chromatin fiber to exist in a decondensed state under conditions that normally would promote extensive fiber condensation. These findings have key implications for both the mechanism of chromatin condensation, and the regulation of genomic function by chromatin.

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