Dynamics of forced nucleosome unraveling and role of nonuniform histone-DNA interactions

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A coarse-grained model of the nucleosome is introduced to investigate the dynamics of force-induced unwrapping of DNA from histone octamers. In this model, the DNA is treated as a charged, discrete worm-like chain, and the octamer is treated as a rigid cylinder carrying a positively charged superhelical groove that accommodates 1.7 turns of DNA. The groove charges are parameterized to reproduce the nonuniform histone/DNA interaction free energy profile and the loading rate-dependent unwrapping forces, both obtained from single-molecule experiments. Brownian dynamics simulations of the model under constant loading conditions reveal that nucleosome unraveling occurs in three distinct stages. At small extensions, the flanking DNA exhibits rapid unwrapping-rewrapping (breathing) dynamics and the octamer flips ∼180° and moves toward the pulling axis. At intermediate extensions, the outer turn of DNA unwraps gradually and the octamer swivels about the taut linkers and flips a further ∼90° to orient its superhelical axis almost parallel to the pulling axis. At large extensions, a portion of the inner turn unwraps abruptly with a notable rip in the force-extension plot and a >90° flip of the octamer. The remaining inner turn unwraps reversibly to leave a small portion of DNA attached to the octamer despite extended pulling. Our simulations further reveal that the nonuniform histone/DNA interactions in canonical nucleosomes serve to: stabilize the inner turn against unraveling while enhancing the breathing dynamics of the nucleosome and prevent dissociation of the octamer from the DNA while facilitating its mobility along the DNA. Thus, the modulation of the histone/DNA interactions could constitute one possible mechanism for regulating the accessibility of the nucleosome-wound DNA sequences. © 2012 Biophysical Society.




Dobrovolskaia, I. V., & Arya, G. (2012). Dynamics of forced nucleosome unraveling and role of nonuniform histone-DNA interactions. Biophysical Journal, 103(5), 989–998. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2012.07.043

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