Internal structure of the 30 nm chromatin fiber

Salvador Bartolomé, Antonio Bermúdez, Joan Ramon Daban

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27 Citations (Scopus)


In the presence of 1.7 mM Mg2+, the diameter of the circular structures produced by small chromatin fragments isolated from chicken erythrocytes remains essentially unchanged when the number of nucleosomes in these fragments increases from 10 to 36. In contrast, the results obtained in unidirectional shadowing experiments show that under the same conditions the height of the chromatin fragments increases with the number of nucleosomes. These observations indicate that the electron microscope images studied in this work correspond to a top view of small chromatin fragments. Rotary-shadowed chromatin fragments show three parts: (a) a contour with a heavy deposition of platinum; (b) an annular zone between the central region and the periphery; and (c) a central hole. The heterogeneous ring generated by the deposition of platinum in the periphery suggests that nucleosomes form a one-start helix (5-7 nucleosomes per turn) that apparently can be left- or right-handed. The annular region (thickness of about 11 nm) shows spokes probably due to fiat faces and core DNA of radially oriented nucleosomes. The central hole (8-12 nm) is clearly seen in many images but it is not empty because some deformed fragments show coated material (probably linker DNA) that protrudes from this central depression. We have observed that these structural elements directly detected in short chromatin fragments are also present in long chromatin fibers. This allows us to conclude that these elements are basic structural components of the 30 nm chromatin fiber.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2983-2992
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1994


  • Chromatin fiber
  • Chromatin folding
  • Nucleosome


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