Acetylation is one of the most abundant histone modifications found in nucleosomes. Although such modifications are thought to function mainly in recognition, acetylation is known to produce nucleosome structural alterations. These could be of functional significance in vivo. Here, the basic features of mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter nucleosomal arrays reconstituted with highly acetylated histones prepared from butyrate-treated HeLa cells are characterized by atomic force microscopy. Results are compared to previous results obtained with hypoacetylated MMTV and hyper- or hypoacetylated 5S rDNA arrays. MMTV arrays containing highly acetylated histones show diminished intramolecular compaction compared to hypoacetylated MMTV arrays and no tendency for cooperativity in nucleosome occupation. Both features have been suggested to reflect histone tail-mediated internucleosomal interactions; these observations are consistent with that suggestion. 5S arrays show qualitatively similar behavior. Two other effects of acetylation show stronger DNA template dependence. Nucleosome salt stability is diminished in highly acetylated compared to hypoacetylated MMTV arrays, but nucleosome (histone) loading tendencies are unaffected by acetylation. However, highly acetylated histones show reduced loading tendencies on 5S templates (vs hypoacetylated), but 5S nucleosome salt stabilities are unaffected by acetylation. ATP-dependent nucleosome remodeling by human Swi-Snf is similar on hyper- and hypoacetylated MMTV arrays.
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