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Nucleic Acids Res. 1977;4(5):1183-205.

The problems of eukaryotic and prokaryotic DNA packaging and in vivo conformation posed by superhelix density heterogeneity.


Systems for gel electrophoresis in the presence of one of the intercalative unwinding ligands, ethidium or chloroquine, have been developed which permit the resolution of highly supercoiled closed circular DNA molecules differing by unit values of the topological winding number, alpha. All native closed circular DNAs examined, including the viral and intracellular forms of SV40 and polyoma DNA, bacterial plasmid DNAs, and the double stranded closed circular DNA genome of the marine bacteriophage, PM2, are more heterogeneous with respect to the number of superhelical turns present than are the thermal distributions observed in the limit products of the action of nicking-closing (N-C) enzyme on the respective DNAs. In the cases of SV40 and polyoma, where it has been shown that the supercoiling is a combined consequence of the binding of the four nucleosomal histones, H2a, H2b, H3 and H4, and the action of N-C enzyme, the breadth of the distributions within the form I DNAs poses specific problems since the work of other laboratories indicates that the number of nucleosomes on the respective minichromosomes falls within a narrow distribution of 21. If it is assumed that all nucleosomes have identical structures, and that the DNA within a nucleosome is not free to rotate, the native DNA would be anticipated to be less heterogeneous than the thermal equilibrium mixtures present in N-C enzyme relaxed SV40 and polyoma DNAs. The absolute number of superhelical turns (at 37 degrees C in 0.2 M NaCl) in virion polyoma DNA has been determined to be 26 +/- 1, which is the same value obtained for virion SV40 DNA. This is consistent with the observations that polyoma DNA has a higher molecular weight, a lower superhelix density, but the same number of nucleosomes as SV40 DNA. In addition, the distributions within the virion and intracellular form I DNAs of both SV40 and polyoma were found to be indistinguishable.Images.

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