Tetrameric structure of centromeric nucleosomes in interphase Drosophila cells

Yamini Dalal, Hongda Wang, Stuart Lindsay, Steven Henikoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Centromeres, the specialized chromatin structures that are responsible for equal segregation of chromosomes at mitosis, are epigenetically maintained by a centromere-specific histone H3 variant (CenH3). However, the mechanistic basis for centromere maintenance is unknown. We investigated biochemical properties of CenH3 nucleosomes from Drosophila melanogaster cells. Cross-linking of CenH3 nucleosomes identifies heterotypic tetramers containing one copy of CenH3, H2A, H2B, and H4 each. Interphase CenH3 particles display a stable association of approximately 120 DNA base pairs. Purified centromeric nucleosomal arrays have typical "beads-on-a-string" appearance by electron microscopy but appear to resist condensation under physiological conditions. Atomic force microscopy reveals that native CenH3-containing nucleosomes are only half as high as canonical octameric nucleosomes are, confirming that the tetrameric structure detected by cross-linking comprises the entire interphase nucleosome particle. This demonstration of stable half-nucleosomes in vivo provides a possible basis for the instability of centromeric nucleosomes that are deposited in euchromatic regions, which might help maintain centromere identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1798-1809
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS biology
Volume5
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2007

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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