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Cell March 1, 1978; 13 (3): 535-49.
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Changes of nucleosome frequency in nucleolar and non-nucleolar chromatin as a function of transcription: an electron microscopic study.

Scheer U .

The morphology of nucleolar and non-nucleolar (lampbrush chromosome loops) chromatin was studied in the electron microscope during states of reduced transcriptional activity in amphibian oocytes (Xenopus laevis, Triturus alpestris, T. cristatus). Reduced transcriptional activity was observed in maturing stages of oocyte development and after treatment with an inhibitor, actinomycin D. Strands of nucleolar chromatin appear smooth and thin, and contain only few, if any, nucleosomal particles in the transcribed units. This is true whether they are densely or only sparsely covered with lateral ribonucleoprotein fibrils. This smooth and non-nucleosomal character is also predominant in the interspersed, apparently nontranscribed rDNA spacer regions. During inactivation, however, nucleolar chromatin frequently and progressively assumes a beaded appearance in extended fibril-free--that is, apparently nontranscribed--regions. In either full-grown oocytes or late after drug treatment, most of the nucleolar chromatin is no longer smooth and thin, but rather shows a beaded configuration indistinguishable from inactive non-nucleolar chromatin. In many chromatin strands, transitions of fibril-associated regions of smooth character into beaded regions without lateral fibrils are seen. Similarly, in the non-nucleolar chromatin of the retracting lampbrush chromosome loops, reduced transcriptional activity is correlated with a change from smooth to beaded morphology. Here, however, beaded regions are also commonly found interspersed between the more or less distant bases of the lateral fibrils, the putative transcriptional complexes. In both sorts of chromatin, detergents (in particular Sarkosyl) that remove most of the chromatin proteins including histones from the DNA axis but leave the RNA polymerases of the transcriptional complexes attached were used to discriminate between polymerases and nucleosomal particles. The results suggest that nucleosomes are absent in heavily transcribed chromatin regions but are reformed after inactivation. In contrast to the findings with inactivated nucleolar genes, in lampbrush chromosome loops the beaded nucleosomal configuration appears to be assumed also in regions within transcriptional units that, perhaps temporarily, are not involved in transcription.

PubMed ID: 566162
Article link: Cell