Highly compact folding of chromatin induced by cellular cation concentrations. Evidence from atomic force microscopy studies in aqueous solution

Silvia Caño, Juan Manuel Caravaca, Marc Martín, Joan Ramon Daban

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20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We have performed a very extensive investigation of chromatin folding in different buffers over a wide range of ionic conditions similar to those found in eukaryotic cells. Our results show that in the presence of physiological concentrations of monovalent cations and/or low concentrations of divalent cations, small chicken erythrocyte chromatin fragments and chromatin from HeLa cells observed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) show a compact folding, forming circular bodies of approximately 35 nm in diameter that were found previously in our laboratory in studies performed under very limited conditions. Since TEM images are obtained with dehydrated samples, we have performed atomic force microscopy (AFM) experiments to analyze chromatin structure in the presence of solutions containing different cation concentrations. The highly compact circular structures (in which individual nucleosomes are not visible as separated units) produced by small chromatin fragments in interphase ionic conditions observed by AFM are equivalent to the structures observed by TEM with chromatin samples prepared under the same ionic conditions. We have also carried out experiments of sedimentation and trypsin digestion of chromatin fragments; the results obtained confirm our AFM observations. Our results suggest that the compaction of bulk interphase chromatin in solution at room temperature is considerably higher than that generally considered in current literature. The dense chromatin folding observed in this study is consistent with the requirement of compact chromatin structures as starting elements for the building of metaphase chromosomes, but poses a difficult physical problem for gene expression during interphase. © EBSA 2006.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-501
JournalEuropean Biophysics Journal
Volume35
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2006

Keywords

  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Chromatin structure
  • Intracellular cation concentrations
  • Transmission electron microscopy

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