European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 157–173 | Cite as

The superstructure of chromatin and its condensation mechanism

I. Synchrontron radiation X-ray scattering results
  • J. Bordas
  • L. Perez-Grau
  • M. H. J. Koch
  • M. C. Vega
  • C. Nave


Synchroton radiation X-ray scattering experiments have been performed on chicken erythrocyte chromatin fibres over a wide range of ionic conditions and on various states of the fibres (i.e. “native” in solution in gels and in whole nuclei; chromatin depleted of the H1 (H5) histones and chromatin with bound ethidium bromide).

A correlation between the results obtained with the various chromatin preparations provides evidence for a model according to which at low ionic strength the chromatin fibre already possesses a helical superstructure, with a diameter comparable to that of condensed chromatin, held together by the H1 (H5) histone. The most significant structural modification undergone upon an increase of the ionic strength is a reduction of the helix pitch, this leads to condensation in a manner similar to the folding of an accordion. The details of this process depend on whether monovalent or divalent cations are used to raise the ionic strength, the latter producing a much higher degree of condensation. Measurements of the relative increase of the mass per unit length indicate that the most condensed state is a helical structure with a pitch around 3.0–4.0 nm.

In this paper we give a detailed presentation of the experimental evidence obtained from static and time-resolved scattering experiments, which led to this model.

Key words

Synchroton radiation chromatin superstructure chromatin condensation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Bordas
    • 1
  • L. Perez-Grau
    • 2
  • M. H. J. Koch
    • 2
  • M. C. Vega
    • 2
  • C. Nave
    • 1
  1. 1.Daresbury LaboratoryMRC/SERC Biology Support LaboratoryWarringtonUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.European Molecular Biology Laboratoryc/o DESYHamburg 52Germany

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