In eukaryotes, genomic processes like transcription, replication, repair, and recombination typically require alterations in nucleosome structure on specific DNA regions to operate. ATP-dependent nucleosome remodeling complexes provide a major mechanism for carrying out such alterations in vivo. To learn more about the action of these important complexes, we have utilized an atomic force microscopy in situ technique that permits comparison of the same individual molecules before and after activation of a particular process, in this case nucleosome remodeling. This direct approach was used to look for changes induced by the action of the human Swi-Snf remodeling complex on individual, single-copy mouse mammary tumor virus promoter nucleosomal arrays. Using this technique, we detect a variety of changes on remodeling. Many of these changes are larger in scale than suggested from previous studies and involve a number of DNA-mediated events, including a preference for the removal of a complete turn (80 basepairs) of nucleosomal DNA. The latter result raises the possibility of an unanticipated mode of human Swi-Snf interaction with the nucleosome, namely via the 11-nm histone surface.
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