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J Cell Biol. 1994 Apr;125(1):1-10.

The three-dimensional architecture of chromatin in situ: electron tomography reveals fibers composed of a continuously variable zig-zag nucleosomal ribbon.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003.

Abstract

The three dimensional (3D) structure of chromatin fibers in sections of nuclei has been determined using electron tomography. Low temperature embedding and nucleic acid-specific staining allowed individual nucleosomes to be clearly seen, and the tomographic data collection parameters provided a reconstruction resolution of 2.5 nm. Chromatin fibers have complex 3D trajectories, with smoothly bending regions interspersed with abrupt changes in direction, and U turns. Nucleosomes are located predominantly at the fiber periphery, and linker DNA tends to project toward the fiber interior. Within the fibers, a unifying structural motif is a two nucleosome-wide ribbon that is variably bent and twisted, and in which there is little face-to-face contact between nucleosomes. It is suggested that this asymmetric 3D zig-zag of nucleosomes and linker DNA represents a basic principle of chromatin folding that is determined by the properties of the nucleosome-linker unit. This concept of chromatin fiber architecture is contrasted with helical models in which specific nucleosome-nucleosome contacts play a major role in generating a symmetrical higher order structure. The transcriptional control implications of a more open and irregular chromatin structure are discussed.

PMID:
8138564
PMCID:
PMC2120010
DOI:
10.1083/jcb.125.1.1
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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