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Cell. 1975 Apr;4(4):281-300.

Electron microscopic and biochemical evidence that chromatin structure is a repeating unit.


Electron microscopic and biochemical studies demonstrate that the fundamental structure of chromatin depleted of lysine-rich histones is composed of a flexible chain of spherical particles (nucleosomes), about 125 A in diameter, connected by DNA filaments. Such a chromatin preparation can be separated by centrifugation into two fractions which differ in the spacing of the nucleosomes; In one fraction almost all of the DNA is condensed in nucleosomes, while the other fraction contains long stretches of free DNA connecting regions where the nucleosomes are closely packed. The isolated nucleosomes contain about 200 base pairs of DNA and the four histones F2alpha1, F2alpha2, and F2b, and F3 in an overall histone/DNA ratio of 0.97; In such a structure the DNA is compacted slightly more than five times from its extended length; The same basic structure can be visualized in chromatin spilling out of lysed nuclei. However, in this latter case the nucleosomes are very closely packed, suggesting that histone F1 is involved in the superpacking of DNA in chromosomes and nuclei. The chromatin fiber appears to be a self-assembling structure, since the nucleosomal arrangement can be reconstituted in vitro from DNA and the four histones F2alpha1, F2alpha2, F2b and F3 only, irrespective of their cellular origin.

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