X-ray small angle scattering study of chromatin as a function of fiber length

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Abstract

This work investigates the structure of native calf thymus chromatin as a function of fiber length and isolation procedures by using X-ray small angle scattering technique. Two methods of chromatin isolation have been compared in order to better understand the differences reported by various authors in terms of chromatin high order structure. In addition to these experimental results the effects of shearing have also been studied. In order to explain the differences among these chromatin preparations we built several models of chromatin fibers (represented as a chain of spherical subunits) assuming increasing level of condensation at increasing salt concentrations. For all these fiber models the corresponding theoretical X-ray scattering curves have been calculated and these results have been used to explain the influence of fiber length on the scattering profiles of chromatin. The comparison between experimental and theoretical curves confirms that the high molecular weight chromatin-DNA prepared by hypotonic swelling of nuclei (without enzymatic digestion) displays a partially folded structure even at low ionic strength, whereas the low molecular weight chromatin-DNA prepared by a brief nuclease digestion appears very weakly folded at the same ionic conditions.

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