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Nucleic Acids Res. 1993 May 25;21(10):2331-8.

Chromatin structures and transcription of rDNA in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Institute of Cell Biology, ETH-Hönggerberg, Zürich, Switzerland.


The chromatin structure of yeast ribosomal DNA was analyzed in vivo by crosslinking intact cells with psoralen. We found that in exponentially growing cultures the regions coding for the 35S rRNA precursor fall into two distinct classes. One class was highly accessible to psoralen and associated with nascent RNAs, characteristic for transcriptionally active rRNA genes devoid of nucleosomes, whereas the other class showed a crosslinking pattern indistinguishable from that of bulk chromatin and was interpreted to represent the inactive rRNA gene copies. By crosslinking the same strain growing in complex or minimal medium, we have shown that yeast cells can modulate the proportion of active (non-nucleosomal) and inactive (nucleosomal) rRNA gene copies in response to variations in environmental conditions which suggests that yeast can regulate rRNA synthesis by varying the number of active gene copies, in contrast to the vertebrate cells studied so far. Whereas intergenic spacers flanking inactive rRNA gene copies are packaged in a regular nucleosomal array, spacers flanking active genes show an unusual crosslinking pattern suggesting a complex interaction of regulatory factors and histones with DNA.

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