Atomic force microscopy of chromatin arrays reveal non-monotonic salt dependence of array compaction in solution

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Abstract

Compaction of DNA in chromatin is a hallmark of the eukaryotic cell and unravelling its structure is required for an understanding of DNA involving processes. Despite strong experimental efforts, many questions concerning the DNA packing are open. In particular, it is heavily debated whether an ordered structure referred to as the '30 nm fibre' exist in vivo. Scanning probe microscopy has become a cutting edge technology for the high-resolution imaging of DNA-protein complexes. Here, we perform high-resolution atomic force microscopy of non-cross-linked chromatin arrays in liquid, under different salt conditions. A statistical analysis of the data reveals that array compaction is salt dependent in a non-monotonic fashion. A simple physical model can qualitatively explain the observed findings due to the opposing effects of salt dependent stiffening of DNA, nucleosome stability and histone-histone interactions. While for different salt concentrations different compaction states are observed, our data do not provide support for the existence of regular chromatin fibres. Our studies add new insights into chromatin structure, and with that contribute to a further understanding of the DNA condensation.

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Krzemien, K. M., Beckers, M., Quack, S., & Michaelis, J. (2017). Atomic force microscopy of chromatin arrays reveal non-monotonic salt dependence of array compaction in solution. PLoS ONE, 12(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173459

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