The polyelectrolyte properties of chromatin
Lyubartsev, Alexander P.
Date of Issue2012
School of Biological Sciences
Double helical DNA is a negatively charged polyelectrolyte and exists in the nucleus of living cells as chromatin, a highly compacted but dynamic complex with histone proteins. The first level of DNA compaction is the linear array of the nucleosome core particles (NCP), which is a well-defined structure of 145–147 bp DNA with the histone octamer, connected by linker DNA. Higher levels of chromatin compaction include two routes which may overlap: intramolecular folding of the nucleosome array resulting in formation of the 30 nm fibre and intermolecular aggregation (self-association) between different arrays (or distant fibres of the same chromosome). This review describes how the polyelectrolyte properties of chromatin are illustrated by experimental results of folding and self-association of well-defined model chromatin, in the form of recombinant nucleosome arrays, and how these properties can be understood from computer modelling. Chromatin compaction shows considerable similarities to DNA condensation. However, the structure of condensed chromatin is sensitive to the detailed molecular features of the nucleosome–nucleosome interactions which include the influence of the histone tails and their modifications.
© 2012 The Royal Society of Chemistry.