Research Articles

Role of nucleosomal cores and histone H1 in regulation of transcription by RNA polymerase II

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Science  11 Oct 1991:
Vol. 254, Issue 5029, pp. 238-245
DOI: 10.1126/science.1718039


The relation between chromatin structure and transcriptional activity was examined by in vitro transcription analysis of chromatin reconstituted in the absence or presence of histone H1. To maintain well-defined template DNA, purified components were used in the reconstitution of chromatin. Reconstitution of nucleosomal cores to an average density of 1 nucleosome per 200 base pairs of DNA resulted in a mild reduction of basal RNA polymerase II transcription to 25 to 50 percent of that obtained with naked DNA templates. This nucleosome-mediated repression was due to nucleosomal cores located at the RNA start site and could not be counteracted by the sequence-specific transcription activators Sp1 and GAL4-VP16. When H1 was incorporated into the chromatin at 0.5 to 1.0 molecule per nucleosome (200 base pairs of DNA), RNA synthesis was reduced to 1 to 4 percent of that observed with chromatin containing only nucleosomal cores, and this H1-mediated repression could be counteracted by the addition of Sp1 or GAL4-VP16 (antirepression). With naked DNA templates, transcription was increased by a factor of 3 and 8 by Sp1 and GAL4-VP-16, respectively (true activation). With H1-repressed chromatin templates, however, the magnitude of transcriptional activation mediated by Sp1 and GAL4-VP16 was 90 and more than 200 times higher, respectively, because of the combined effects of true activation and antirepression. The data provide direct biochemical evidence that support and clarify previously proposed models in which there is depletion or reconfiguration of nucleosomal cores and histone H1 at the promoter regions of active genes.

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