Structural mechanics of DNA wrapping in the nucleosome.

TitleStructural mechanics of DNA wrapping in the nucleosome.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBattistini, Federica, Hunter Christopher A., Gardiner Eleanor J., and Packer Martin J.
JournalJ Mol Biol
Date Published2010 Feb 19
KeywordsBiological, Biomechanical Phenomena, Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly, Crystallography, DNA, Models, Molecular, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Nucleic Acid Conformation, Nucleosomes, Protein Structure, Quaternary, Theoretical, X-Ray

Experimental X-ray crystal structures and a database of calculated structural parameters of DNA octamers were used in combination to analyse the mechanics of DNA bending in the nucleosome core complex. The 1kx5 X-ray crystal structure of the nucleosome core complex was used to determine the relationship between local structure at the base-step level and the global superhelical conformation observed for nucleosome-bound DNA. The superhelix is characterised by a large curvature (597 degrees) in one plane and very little curvature (10 degrees) in the orthogonal plane. Analysis of the curvature at the level of 10-step segments shows that there is a uniform curvature of 30 degrees per helical turn throughout most of the structure but that there are two sharper kinks of 50 degrees at +/-2 helical turns from the central dyad base pair. The curvature is due almost entirely to the base-step parameter roll. There are large periodic variations in roll, which are in phase with the helical twist and account for 500 degrees of the total curvature. Although variations in the other base-step parameters perturb the local path of the DNA, they make minimal contributions to the total curvature. This implies that DNA bending in the nucleosome is achieved using the roll-slide-twist degree of freedom previously identified as the major degree of freedom in naked DNA oligomers. The energetics of bending into a nucleosome-bound conformation were therefore analysed using a database of structural parameters that we have previously developed for naked DNA oligomers. The minimum energy roll, the roll flexibility force constant and the maximum and minimum accessible roll values were obtained for each base step in the relevant octanucleotide context to account for the effects of conformational coupling that vary with sequence context. The distribution of base-step roll values and corresponding strain energy required to bend DNA into the nucleosome-bound conformation defined by the 1kx5 structure were obtained by applying a constant bending moment. When a single bending moment was applied to the entire sequence, the local details of the calculated structure did not match the experiment. However, when local 10-step bending moments were applied separately, the calculated structure showed excellent agreement with experiment. This implies that the protein applies variable bending forces along the DNA to maintain the superhelical path required for nucleosome wrapping. In particular, the 50 degrees kinks are constraints imposed by the protein rather than a feature of the 1kx5 DNA sequence. The kinks coincide with a relatively flexible region of the sequence, and this is probably a prerequisite for high-affinity nucleosome binding, but the bending strain energy is significantly higher at these points than for the rest of the sequence. In the most rigid regions of the sequence, a higher strain energy is also required to achieve the standard 30 degrees curvature per helical turn. We conclude that matching of the DNA sequence to the local roll periodicity required to achieve bending, together with the increased flexibility required at the kinks, determines the sequence selectivity of DNA wrapping in the nucleosome.