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Mol Cell Biol. 2000 Dec;20(23):8866-78.

Effects of histone tail domains on the rate of transcriptional elongation through a nucleosome.

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Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3500, USA.


The N-terminal tail domains of the core histones play important roles in gene regulation, but the exact mechanisms through which they act are not known. Recent studies suggest that the tail domains may influence the ability of RNA polymerase to elongate through the nucleosomal DNA and, thus, that posttranslational modification of the tail domains may provide a control point for gene regulation through effects on the elongation rate. We take advantage of an experimental system that uses bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase as a probe for aspects of nucleosome transcription that are dominated by the properties of nucleosomes themselves. With this system, experiments can analyze the synchronous, real-time, single-passage transcription on the nucleosomal template. Here, we use this system to directly test the hypothesis that the tail domains may influence the "elongatability" of nucleosomal DNA and to identify which of the tail domains may contribute to this. The results show that the tail domains strongly influence the rate of elongation and suggest that the effect is dominated by the N-terminal domains of the (H3-H4)(2) tetramer. They further imply that tail-mediated octamer transfer is not essential for elongation through the nucleosome. Acetylation of the tail domains leads to effects on elongation that are similar to those arising from complete removal of the tail domains.

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