Nucleosome dynamics and epigenetic stability

Essays Biochem., 2010, 48, 63-74 published on 20.09.2010

Essays in Biochemistry, online article

Nucleosome remodelling is an essential principle to assure that the packaging of eukaryotic genomes in chromatin remains flexible and adaptable to regulatory needs. Nucleosome remodelling enzymes spend the energy of ATP to alter histone–DNA interactions, to catalyse nucleosome displacement and reassembly, on histone exchange and on the relocation of histone octamers on DNA. Despite these dynamics, chromatin structures encode ‘epigenetic’ information that governs the expression of the underlying genes. These information-bearing structures must be maintained over extended periods of time in resting cells and may be suffi ciently stable to resist the turmoil of the cell cycle to be passed on to the next cell generation. Intuitively, nucleosome remodelling should antagonize the maintenance of stable structures. However, upon closer inspection it becomes evident that nucleosome remodelling is intimately involved in the assembly of stable chromatin structures that correspond to functional states. Remodellers may even contribute structural information themselves. Their involvement can be seen at several structural levels: at the levels of positioning individual nucleosomes, homoeostasis of linker histones, histone variants and non-histone proteins, as well as the differential folding of the nucleosome fibre. All of them may contribute to the assembly of heritable epigenetic structures.

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