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Biochemistry. 1991 Jun 11;30(23):5631-43.

Binding of ethidium to the nucleosome core particle. 1. Binding and dissociation reactions.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331.


We have examined binding properties of and dissociation induced by the intercalating dye ethidium bromide when it interacts with the nucleosome core particle under low ionic strength conditions. Ethidium binding to the core particle results in a reversible dissociation which requires the critical binding of 14 ethidium molecules. Under low ionic strength conditions, dissociation is about 90% completed in 5 h. The observed ethidium binding isotherm was corrected for the presence of free DNA due to particle dissociation. The corrected curve reveals that the binding of ethidium to the core particle itself is a highly cooperative process characterized by a low intrinsic binding constant of KA = 2.4 X 10(4) M-1 and a cooperativity parameter of omega = approximately 140. The number of base pairs excluded to another dye molecule by each bound dye molecule (n) is 4.5. Through the use of a chemical probe, methidiumpropyl-EDTA (MPE), we have localized the initial binding sites of ethidium in the core particle to consist of an average of 27 +/- 4 bp of DNA that are distributed near both ends of the DNA termini. MPE footprint analysis has also revealed that, prior to dissociation, the fractional population of core particles which bind the dye (f) may be as low as 50%. Comparison of the binding and dissociation data showed that the cooperative maximum of the binding curve occurred at or near the critical value, i.e., at the point where dissociation began. The data were used to generate a detailed model for the association of ethidium with chromatin at the level of the nucleosome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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