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Involvement of the globular domain of histone H1 in the higher order structures of chromatin.

  • Losa, R
  • Thoma, F
  • Koller, T
Published Article
Journal of molecular biology
Publication Date
Jun 05, 1984
PMID: 6737477


We have attacked H1-containing soluble chromatin by alpha-chymotrypsin under conditions where chromatin adopts different structures. Soluble rat liver chromatin fragments depleted of non-histone components were digested with alpha-chymotrypsin in NaCl concentrations between 0 mM and 500 mM, at pH 7, or at pH 10, or at pH 7 in the presence of 4 M-urea. alpha-Chymotrypsin cleaves purified rat liver histone H1 at a specific initial site (CT) located in the globular domain and produces an N-terminal half (CT-N) which contains most of the globular domain and the N-terminal tail, and a C-terminal half (CT-C) which contains the C-terminal tail and a small part of the globular domain. Since in sodium dodecyl sulfate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis CT-C migrates between the core histones and H1, cleavage of chromatin-bound H1 by alpha-chymotrypsin can be easily monitored. The CT-C fragment was detected under conditions where chromatin fibers were unfolded or distorted: under conditions of H1 dissociation at 400 mM and 500 mM-NaCl (pH 7 and 10); at very low ionic strength where chromatin is unfolded into a filament with well-separated nucleosomes; at pH 10 independent of the ionic strength where chromatin never assumes higher order structures; in the presence of 4 M-urea (pH 7), again independent of the ionic strength. However, hardly any CT-C fragment was detected under conditions where fibers are observed in the electron microscope at pH 7 between 20 mM and 300 mM-NaCl. Under these conditions H1 is degraded by alpha-chymotrypsin into unstable fragments with a molecular weight higher than that of CT-C. Thus, the data show that there are at least two different modes of interaction of H1 in chromatin which correlate with the physical state of the chromatin. Since the condensation of chromatin into structurally organized fibers upon raising the ionic strength starts by internucleosomal contacts in the fiber axis (zig-zag-shaped fiber), where H1 appears to be localized, it is likely that in chromatin fibers the preferential cleavage site for alpha-chymotrypsin is protected because of H1-H1 contacts. The data suggest that the globular part of H1 is involved in these contacts close to the fiber axis. They appear to be hydrophobic and to be essential for the structural organization of the chromatin fibers.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)


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