Background: Post-translational modifications of histones play important roles in regulating nucleosome structure and gene transcription. It has been shown that biotinylation of histone H4 at lysine-12 in histone H4 (K12Bio-H4) is associated with repression of a number of genes. We hypothesized that biotinylation modifies the physical structure of nucleosomes, and that biotin-induced conformational changes contribute to gene silencing associated with histone biotinylation. Methodology/Principal Findings: To test this hypothesis we used atomic force microscopy to directly analyze structures of nucleosomes formed with biotin-modified and non-modified H4. The analysis of the AFM images revealed a 13% increase in the length of DNA wrapped around the histone core in nucleosomes with biotinylated H4. This statistically significant (p≤0.001) difference between native and biotinylated nucleosomes corresponds to adding approximately 20 bp to the classical 147 bp length of nucleosomal DNA. Conclusions/Significance: The increase in nucleosomal DNA length is predicted to stabilize the association of DNA with histones and therefore to prevent nucleosomes from unwrapping. This provides a mechanistic explanation for the gene silencing associated with K12Bio-H4. The proposed single-molecule AFM approach will be instrumental for studying the effects of various epigenetic modifications of nucleosomes, in addition to biotinylation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)