Unfolding individual nucleosomes by stretching single chromatin fibers with optical tweezers.
Single chromatin fibers were assembled directly in the flow cell of an optical tweezers setup. A single lambda phage DNA molecule, suspended between two polystyrene beads, was exposed to a Xenopus laevis egg extract, leading to chromatin assembly with concomitant apparent shortening of the DNA molecule. Assembly was force-dependent and could not take place at forces exceeding 10 pN. The assembled single chromatin fiber was subjected to stretching by controlled movement of one of the beads with the force generated in the molecule continuously monitored with the second bead trapped in the optical trap. The force displayed discrete, sudden drops upon fiber stretching, reflecting discrete opening events in fiber structure. These opening events were quantized at increments in fiber length of approximately 65 nm and are attributed to unwrapping of the DNA from around individual histone octamers. Repeated stretching and relaxing of the fiber in the absence of egg extract showed that the loss of histone octamers was irreversible. The forces measured for individual nucleosome disruptions are in the range of 20-40 pN, comparable to forces reported for RNA- and DNA-polymerases.
PubMed ID: 11427891
Article link: Nat Struct Biol.