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Biophys J. 1997 Mar;72(3):1388-95.

Histone H1 preferentially binds to superhelical DNA molecules of higher compaction.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331-7305, USA.


In chromatin, the physiological amount of H1 is one molecule per nucleosome or, roughly, one molecule per 200 bp of DNA. We observed that at such a stoichiometry, H1 selectively binds to supercoiled DNA with magnitude of sigma > or = 0.012 (both negative and positive), leaving relaxed, linear, or nicked DNA molecules unbound. When negative and positive DNA topoisomers of varying superhelicity are simultaneously present in the binding mixture, H1 selectively binds to the molecules with highest superhelicity; less supercoiled forms are gradually involved in binding upon increasing the amount of input protein. We explain this topological preference of H1 as the consequence of an increased probability for more than one H1-DNA contact provided by the supercoiling. The existence of simultaneous contacts of H1 with both intertwined DNA strands in the supercoiled DNA molecules is also inferred by topoisomerase relaxation of H1-DNA complexes that had been prefixed with glutaraldehyde.

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