We show that nondenaturing agarose gels can be used for the study of the structure and dynamic properties of native (uncross-linked) chromatin. In gels containing 1.7 mM Mg2+, chicken erythrocyte chromatin fragments having from about 6 to 50 nucleosomes produce well defined bands. These bands have an electrophoretic mobility that decreases only slightly with molecular weight. This surprising behavior is not observed in low ionic strength gels. Fragments with less than 6 nucleosomes and low content of histones H1-H5 give rise to broad bands in gels with Mg2+. In contrast, fragments containing only 3-4 nucleosomes but with the normal H1-H5 content are able to form associated structures with a mobility similar to that observed for high molecular weight chromatin. Electron microscopy results indicate that the associated fragments and the fragments of higher molecular weight show similar electrophoretic properties because they become very compact in the presence of Mg2+ and form cylindrical structures with a diameter of ∼33 nm. Our results suggest that the interactions involved in the self-assembly of small fragments are the same that direct the folding of larger fragments; in both cases, the resulting compact chromatin structure is formed from a basic element containing 5-7 nucleosomes.
|Journal||Journal of Biological Chemistry|
|Publication status||Published - 22 Sep 1995|