Poly(glutamic acid) promoted assembly of nucleosome cores on the histone gene quintet of psammechinus miliaris

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis investigates whether DNA and histones contain sufficient information to direct nucleosome cores into specific positions. The "in vitro" assembly of nucleosome cores promoted by poly(glutamic acid) has been optimized with respect to rate and yield. This was achieved by paying attention to the purity of the core constituents and in particular by the use of histones in their octameric form. The suitability of a number of octamer purification protocols, to produce pure undenatured histone octamers, has been investigated and the methodology improved. The particles assembled on random DNA have been found to be indistinguishable from native nucleosome cores by the following criteria: Their S value on sucrose gradient centrifugation, resistance to Micrococcal nuclease digestion, DNase I digestion patterns, DNase I digestion kinetics at the susceptible sites, electronmicroscopic appearance, hi stone content and electrophoretic mobility. Cores were also assembled on unique DNA, namely the intact h22 histone quintet of Psammechinus miliaris. Low resolution mapping, by indirect endlabelling of polycores assembled on the quintet, did not reveal any preferred sites of assembly. To investigate the core associated DNA at single base pair resolution, a series of fragments, excised from the H2A-Hl and the Hl-H4 spacer areas, were inserted into pGV403 plasmids. These plasmids can be strand specifically end-labelled with the Klenow fragment at the two different Tth 111 I excision sites utilised to isolate the propagated insert. On the free linearised DNA a complex digestion pattern is produced due to the sequence specificities of Micrococcal nuclease and DNase I. When cores are assembled on this DNA the digestion pattern is changed. This pattern reveals two preferential frames of assembly and indicates that in the remainder of the fragments cores are assembled, randomly, or in a number of overlapping frames. It is concluded that the DNA fragments investigated and the hi stone octamer contain enough structural information to influence the positions occupied by some nucleosome cores. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Bibliography: leaves 194-217.