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J Biol Chem. 2014 Mar 7;289(10):6850-61. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.512137. Epub 2014 Jan 10.

Human heterochromatin protein 1α promotes nucleosome associations that drive chromatin condensation.

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From the Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011.


HP1(Hsα)-containing heterochromatin is located near centric regions of chromosomes and regulates DNA-mediated processes such as DNA repair and transcription. The higher-order structure of heterochromatin contributes to this regulation, yet the structure of heterochromatin is not well understood. We took a multidisciplinary approach to determine how HP1(Hsα)-nucleosome interactions contribute to the structure of heterochromatin. We show that HP1(Hsα) preferentially binds histone H3K9Me3-containing nucleosomal arrays in favor of non-methylated nucleosomal arrays and that nonspecific DNA interactions and pre-existing chromatin compaction promote binding. The chromo and chromo shadow domains of HP1(Hsα) play an essential role in HP1(Hsα)-nucleosome interactions, whereas the hinge region appears to have a less significant role. Electron microscopy of HP1(Hsα)-associated nucleosomal arrays showed that HP1(Hsα) caused nucleosome associations within an array, facilitating chromatin condensation. Differential sedimentation of HP1(Hsα)-associated nucleosomal arrays showed that HP1(Hsα) promotes interactions between arrays. These strand-to-strand interactions are supported by in vivo studies where tethering the Drosophila homologue HP1a to specific sites promotes interactions with distant chromosomal sites. Our findings demonstrate that HP1(Hsα)-nucleosome interactions cause chromatin condensation, a process that regulates many chromosome events.


Chromatin Structure; Chromosomes; DNA Binding Protein; Heterochromatin; Histone Modification

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