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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1972 Nov;69(11):3263-7.

Mixed conformations of deoxyribonucleic acid in chromatin: a preliminary report.


We have established empirical limits for the circular dichroism spectra appropriate for aqueous solutions of the B, C, and A forms of calf-thymus DNA and have analyzed DNA conformations in biological structures. The circular dichroism spectrum above 250 nm of purified calf-thymus chromatin can be satisfactorily accounted for as a linear combination of contributions of the B and C reference spectra without invoking higher-order structures such as supercoils. The amount of A contribution, if any, is below the limit of detection (</=4%). The fraction of bases in the B conformation depends on the method of isolation of nucleohistone, and ranges from 30-50%. The B content of a given preparation is increased by addition of a chelating agent and decreased by addition of divalent ions. More radical increases ensue upon protein removal. Nuclease treatment results in a dramatic decrease in B content. The fraction of bases melting out in the lower transitions of the complex melting profile of a given chromatin preparation corresponds to its B content. We propose a model for chromatin structure in which part of the DNA duplex is exposed or accessible to the solvent and is in the B conformation. The remainder of the base pairs and ribophosphate backbone are protected from interaction with the solvent by efficient histone coverage and are in the C conformation. Divalent ions modulate the distribution of bases between these two conformations.

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