The organization of DNA in chromatin is involved in repressing basal transcription of a number of inducible genes. Biochemically defined multiprotein complexes such as SWI/SNF (J. Côté, J. Quinn, J. L. Workman, and C. L. Peterson, Science 265:53-60, 1994) and nucleosome remodeling factor (T. Tsukiyama and C. Wu, Cell 83:1011-1020, 1995) disrupt nucleosomes in vitro and are thus candidates for complexes which cause chromatin decondensation during gene induction. In this study we show that the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), a hormone-inducible transcription factor, stimulates the nucleosome-disrupting activity of the SWI/SNF complex partially purified either from HeLa cells or from rat liver tissue. This GR-mediated stimulation of SWI/SNF nucleosome disruption depended on the presence of a glucocorticoid response element. The in vitro-reconstituted nucleosome probes used in these experiments harbored 95 bp of synthetic DNA-bending sequence in order to rotationally position the DNA. The GR-dependent stimulation of SWI/SNF-mediated nucleosome disruption, as evaluated by DNase I footprinting, was 2.7- to 3.8-fold for the human SWI/SNF complex and 2.5- to 3.2-fold for the rat SWI/SNF complex. When nuclear factor 1 (NF1) was used instead of GR, there was no stimulation of SWI/SNF activity in the presence of a mononucleosome containing an NF1 binding site. On the other hand, the SWI/SNF nucleosome disruption activity increased the access of NF1 for its nucleosomal binding site. No such effect was seen on binding of GR to its response element. Our results suggest that GR, but not NF1, is able to target the nucleosome-disrupting activity of the SWI/SNF complex.
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