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J Biol Chem. 1995 Apr 28;270(17):10091-6.

Nucleosome positioning by human Alu elements in chromatin.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Growth Regulation, NICHD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Alu sequences are interspersed throughout the genomes of primate cells, occurring singly and in clusters around RNA polymerase II-transcribed genes. Because these repeat elements are capable of positioning nucleosomes in in vitro reconstitutes (Englander, E. W., Wolffe, A. P., and Howard, B. H. (1993) J. Biol. Chem. 268, 19565-19573), we investigated whether they also influence in vivo chromatin structure. When assayed collectively using consensus sequence probes and native chromatin as template, Alu family members were found to confer rotational positioning on nucleosomes or nucleosome-like particles. In particular, a 10-base pair pattern of DNase I nicking that spanned the RNA polymerase III box A promoter motif extended upstream to cover diverse 5'-flanking sequences, suggesting that Alu repeats may influence patterns of nucleosome formation over neighboring regions. Computational analysis of a set of naturally occurring Alu sequences indicated that nucleosome positioning information is intrinsic to these elements. Inasmuch as local chromatin organization influences gene expression, the capacity of Alu sequences to affect chromatin structure as demonstrated here may help to clarify some features of these elements.

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