skip to main content

Title: Intrinsic elasticity of nucleosomes is encoded by histone variants and calibrated by their binding partners
Histone variants fine-tune transcription, replication, DNA damage repair, and faithful chromosome segregation. Whether and how nucleosome variants encode unique mechanical properties to their cognate chromatin structures remains elusive. Here, using in silico and in vitro nanoindentation methods, extending to in vivo dissections, we report that histone variant nucleosomes are intrinsically more elastic than their canonical counterparts. Furthermore, binding proteins, which discriminate between histone variant nucleosomes, suppress this innate elasticity and also compact chromatin. Interestingly, when we overexpress the binding proteins in vivo, we also observe increased compaction of chromatin enriched for histone variant nucleosomes, correlating with diminished access. Taken together, these data suggest a plausible link between innate mechanical properties possessed by histone variant nucleosomes, the adaptability of chromatin states in vivo, and the epigenetic plasticity of the underlying locus.
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The heritability of chromatin states through cell division is a potential contributor to the epigenetic maintenance of cellular memory of prior states. The macroH2A histone variant has properties of a regulator of epigenetic cell memory, including roles controlling gene silencing and cell differentiation. Its mechanisms of regional genomic targeting and maintenance through cell division are unknown. Here, we combined in vivo imaging with biochemical and genomic approaches to show that human macroH2A is incorporated into chromatin in the G1 phase of the cell cycle following DNA replication. The newly incorporated macroH2A retargets the same large heterochromatic domains where macroH2A was already enriched in the previous cell cycle. It remains heterotypic, targeting individual nucleosomes that do not already contain a macroH2A molecule. The pattern observed resembles that of a new deposition of centromeric histone variants during the cell cycle, indicating mechanistic similarities for macrodomain-scale regulation of epigenetic properties of the cell.
  2. Histone chaperones, like nucleosome assembly protein 1 (Nap1), play a critical role in the maintenance of chromatin architecture. Here, we use the GAL locus in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to investigate the influence of Nap1 on chromatin structure and histone dynamics during distinct transcriptional states. When the GAL locus is not expressed, cells lacking Nap1 show an accumulation of histone H2A-H2B but not histone H3-H4 at this locus. Excess H2A-H2B interacts with the linker DNA between nucleosomes, and the interaction is independent of the inherent DNA-binding affinity of H2A-H2B for these particular sequences as measured in vitro . When the GAL locus is transcribed, excess H2A-H2B is reversed, and levels of all chromatin-bound histones are depleted in cells lacking Nap1. We developed an in vivo system to measure histone exchange at the GAL locus and observed considerable variability in the rate of exchange across the locus in wild-type cells. We recapitulate this variability with in vitro nucleosome reconstitutions, which suggests a contribution of DNA sequence to histone dynamics. We also find that Nap1 is required for transcription-dependent H2A-H2B exchange. Altogether, these results indicate that Nap1 is essential for maintaining proper chromatin composition and modulating the exchange of H2A-H2B in vivo .
  3. The basic unit of chromatin, the nucleosome, is an octamer of four core histone proteins (H2A, H2B, H3, and H4) and serves as a fundamental regulatory unit in all DNA-templated processes. The majority of nucleosome assembly occurs during DNA replication when these core histones are produced en masse to accommodate the nascent genome. In addition, there are a number of nonallelic sequence variants of H2A and H3 in particular, known as histone variants, that can be incorporated into nucleosomes in a targeted and replication-independent manner. By virtue of their sequence divergence from the replication-coupled histones, these histone variants can impart unique properties onto the nucleosomes they occupy and thereby influence transcription and epigenetic states, DNA repair, chromosome segregation, and other nuclear processes in ways that profoundly affect plant biology. In this review, we discuss the evolutionary origins of these variants in plants, their known roles in chromatin, and their impacts on plant development and stress responses. We focus on the individual and combined roles of histone variants in transcriptional regulation within euchromatic and heterochromatic genome regions. Finally, we highlight gaps in our understanding of plant variants at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels, and we propose new directions for studymore »in the field of plant histone variants.« less
  4. All eukaryotic genomes are packaged into basic units of DNA wrapped around histone proteins called nucleosomes. The ability of histones to specify a variety of epigenetic states at defined chromatin domains is essential for cell survival. The most distinctive type of chromatin is found at centromeres, which are marked by the centromere-specific histone H3 variant CENP-A. Many of the factors that regulate CENP-A chromatin have been identified; however, our understanding of the mechanisms of centromeric nucleosome assembly, maintenance, and reorganization remains limited. This review discusses recent insights into these processes and draws parallels between centromeric and noncentromeric chromatin assembly mechanisms.
  5. Abstract The importance of histone variant H2A.Z in transcription regulation has been well established, yet its mechanism-of-action remains enigmatic. Conflicting evidence exists in support of both an activating and a repressive role of H2A.Z in transcription. Here we report cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structures of nucleosomes and chromatin fibers containing H2A.Z and those containing canonical H2A. The structures show that H2A.Z incorporation results in substantial structural changes in both nucleosome and chromatin fiber. While H2A.Z increases the mobility of DNA terminus in nucleosomes, it simultaneously enables nucleosome arrays to form a more regular and condensed chromatin fiber. We also demonstrated that H2A.Z’s ability to enhance nucleosomal DNA mobility is largely attributed to its characteristic shorter C-terminus. Our study provides the structural basis for H2A.Z-mediated chromatin regulation, showing that the increase flexibility of the DNA termini in H2A.Z nucleosomes is central to its dual-functions in chromatin regulation and in transcription.