Towards The Understanding Of The Structural Biology Of Histone H1
Bharath, M M Srinivas
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In the eukaryotic nucleus, an immense length of DNA is compactly packaged to generate an ordered three-dimensional hierarchical structure called chromatin (van Holde, 1988; Wolffe, A.P, 1998). This organization forms a template for various DNA transaction processes like replication, transcription, recombination etc. The different stages of organization of the chromatin finally results in the 10,000-fold compaction observed in the metaphase chromosome. The problem of how the fibres of chromatin are folded has interested biologists and biochemists for decades. It has long been recognized that the Histones play a major part in this folding. However, the distinctly different roles of the Histones H2A, H2B, H3 and H4 on one hand and the lysine rich Histones such as Histone H1 and its cognates on the other, were not understood until after the discovery of the nucleosomes in the early 1970s. Some of the early insights into the structure of chromatin came through the digestion of nuclear chromatin with calcium-dependent endonucleases like micrococcal nuclease. A repeating kinetic intermediate of about 200 bp of DNA with Histones was obtained (Simpson, 1978). Based on repeating pattern of micrococcal nuclease digested chromatin and structural studies, Kornberg (1974) proposed that chromatin is composed of a flexible chain of repeating units of 100 A0 diameter. These units were termed as "nucleosomes" (Oudet et al, 1975). It then became clear that the Histones H2A, H2B, H3 and H4 were constituents of the nucleosome core particle whereas the lysine rich Histone H1 was somehow associated with the linker DNA between core particles. Hence, the formers are called core Histones and the latter as linker Histones. On further digestion of nucleosome, a nucleosome core was obtained in which wrapping of 146 bp of DNA about the Histone octamer to form the core particle provided the first level of folding. Electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction techniques suggested that this particle is a disk, 57 A0 thick and 110 A0 in diameter, and that the DNA is wound around the Histone core (Finch et al, 1977), But this cannot account for the many thousand-fold condensation of the DNA in the eukaryotic nucleus. The "string of beads" structure observed obviously could not satisfy the compaction requirement. It soon became evident that there exists some level of higher order folding of the chromatin fiber. In a classical paper, Finch and Klug (1976), showed that the extended nucleosomal filaments condense into irregular fibers of about 30 nm diameter in the presence of low concentrations of Mg 2+. Based on the data from earlier structural studies, these authors proposed a solenoid model in which nucleosomes were wrapped into a regular helix with a pitch of about 11nm. Later, it was observed that the formation of well defined fibers requires the presence of lysine rich Histones such as Histone H1.
- Biochemistry (BC)