Fast, long-range, reversible conformational fluctuations in nucleosomes revealed by single-pair fluorescence resonance energy transfer
The nucleosome core particle, the basic repeated structure in chromatin fibers, consists of an octamer of eight core histone molecules, organized as dimers (H2A/H2B) and tetramers [(H3/H4)2] around which DNA wraps tightly in almost two left-handed turns. The nucleosome has to undergo certain conformational changes to allow processes that need access to the DNA template to occur. By single-pair fluorescence resonance energy transfer, we demonstrate fast, long-range, reversible conformational fluctuations in nucleosomes between two states: fully folded (closed), with the DNA wrapped around the histone core, or open, with the DNA significantly unraveled from the histone octamer. The brief excursions into an extended open state may create windows of opportunity for protein factors involved in DNA transactions to bind to or translocate along the DNA.