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Biophys J. 2008 Oct;95(8):3692-705. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.107.121079. Epub 2008 Jan 22.

Nucleosome geometry and internucleosomal interactions control the chromatin fiber conformation.

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Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum & BioQuant, Research Group Genome Organization & Function, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Based on model structures with atomic resolution, a coarse-grained model for the nucleosome geometry was implemented. The dependence of the chromatin fiber conformation on the spatial orientation of nucleosomes and the path and length of the linker DNA was systematically explored by Monte Carlo simulations. Two fiber types were analyzed in detail that represent nucleosome chains without and with linker histones, respectively: two-start helices with crossed-linker DNA (CL conformation) and interdigitated one-start helices (ID conformation) with different nucleosome tilt angles. The CL conformation was derived from a tetranucleosome crystal structure that was extended into a fiber. At thermal equilibrium, the fiber shape persisted but relaxed into a structure with a somewhat lower linear mass density of 3.1 +/- 0.1 nucleosomes/11 nm fiber. Stable ID fibers required local nucleosome tilt angles between 40 degrees and 60 degrees. For these configurations, much higher mass densities of up to 7.9 +/- 0.2 nucleosomes/11 nm fiber were obtained. A model is proposed, in which the transition between a CL and ID fiber is mediated by relatively small changes of the local nucleosome geometry. These were found to be in very good agreement with changes induced by linker histone H1 binding as predicted from the high resolution model structures.

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