Role of H1 in chromatin folding. A thermodynamic study of chromatin reconstitution by differential scanning calorimetry

I. Russo, P. Barboro, I. Alberti, S. Parodi, C. Balbi, C. Allera, G. Lazzarini, E. Patrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a series of related papers, we have recently presented the results of a thermodynamic approach to the conformational transitions of bulk chromatin induced in vitro by different structure-perturbing agents, such as the intercalating dye ethidium bromide or the ionic strength. In all these studies, we took advantage of the capability of differential scanning calorimetry to detect the changes in the melting behavior of the structural domains of chromatin (the linker and the core particle) associated with the order-disorder transitions. This technique also revealed that the higher- order structure undergoes a catastrophic decondensation process in the course of the transformation of rat hepatocytes as well as of cultured cells. Therefore, several questions arose concerning the biological function (if any) of the changes in the degree of condensation of bulk chromatin, as well as the mechanism of transition and the nature of the modulating agents. In this paper, we report a thermodynamic analysis of the reconstitution of H1- depleted calf thymus chromatin with the purpose of establishing (1) the binding mode of H1 and (2) the energetics and cooperativity of the transition from the unfolded to the condensed state. When H1 is progressively extracted from calf thymus nuclei by high-salt treatment, the endotherm at 107 °C, characteristic of the core particles interacting within condensed domains, converts into the thermal transition at 90 °C, resulting from the denaturation of noninteracting core particles. Binding of H1 fully restores the thermal profile of native chromatin. Analysis of H1 association shows that binding occurs at independent sites with K(A) = (3.67 ± 0.60) x 104 M-1 and each site comprising 180 ± 10 bp. The experimental dependence of the fraction of condensed chromatin on R, the moles of bound H1 per nucleosome mole, was compared with a simple thermodynamic model for the conformational change. This analysis yields a value of -5 kcal per nucleosome mole for the interaction free energy of nucleosomes within the ordered state. The process of condensation, is not, however, a highly cooperative (all-or- none) one, as expected from a consideration of the solenoidal model for the 30 nm fiber. Rather, nucleation of the helical state involves the face-to- face interaction between consecutive core particles, and the growth is largely determined by the mergence and rearrangement of neighboring clusters of helically arrayed nucleosomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-311
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Role of H1 in chromatin folding. A thermodynamic study of chromatin reconstitution by differential scanning calorimetry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this