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Biochemistry. 2011 Nov 22;50(46):9973-81. doi: 10.1021/bi201377x. Epub 2011 Oct 31.

The divalent cations Ca2+ and Mg2+ play specific roles in stabilizing histone-DNA interactions within nucleosomes that are partially redundant with the core histone tail domains.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


We previously reported that reconstituted nucleosomes undergo sequence-dependent translational repositioning upon removal of the core histone tail domains under physiological conditions, indicating that the tails influence the choice of position. We report here that removal of the core histone tail domains increases the exposure of the DNA backbone in nucleosomes to hydroxyl radicals, a nonbiased chemical cleavage reagent, indicative of an increase in the motility of the DNA on the histone surface. Moreover, we demonstrate that the divalent cations Mg(2+) and Ca(2+) can replace the role of the tail domains with regard to stabilization of histone-DNA interactions within the nucleosome core and restrict repositioning of nucleosomes upon tail removal. However, when nucleosomes were incubated with Mg(2+) after tail removal, the original distribution of translational positions was not re-established, indicating that divalent cations increase the energy barrier between translational positions rather than altering the free energy differences between positions. Interestingly, other divalent cations such as Zn(2+), Fe(2+), Co(2+), and Mn(2+) had little or no effect on the stability of histone-DNA interactions within tailless nucleosomes. These results support the idea that specific binding sites for Mg(2+) and Ca(2+) ions exist within the nucleosome and play a critical role in nucleosome stability that is partially redundant with the core histone tail domains.

© 2011 American Chemical Society

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