Analysis of nucleosome dynamics by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy
Nucleosomes are the basic repetitive unit of eukaryotic chromatin and are responsible for packing DNA inside the nucleus of the cell. They consist of a complex of eight histone proteins (two copies of four proteins H2A, H2B, H3 and H4) around which 147 base pairs of DNA are wrapped in ~1.67 superhelical turns. Although the nucleosomes are stable protein-DNA complexes, they undergo spontaneous conformational changes that occur in an asynchronous fashion. This conformational dynamics, defined by the "site-exposure" model, involves the DNA unwrapping from the protein core and exposing itself transiently before wrapping back. Physiologically, this allows regulatory proteins to bind to their target DNA sites during cellular processes like replication, DNA repair and transcription. Traditional biochemical assays have stablished the equilibrium constants for the accessibility to various sites along the length of the nucleosomal DNA, from its end to the middle of the dyad axis. Using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), we have established the position dependent rewrapping rates for nucleosomes. We have also used Monte Carlo simulation methods to analyze the applicability of FRET fluctuation spectroscopy towards conformational dynamics, specifically motivated by nucleosome dynamics. Another important conformational change that is involved in cellular processes is the disassembly of nucleosome into its constituent particles. The exact pathway adopted by nucleosomes is still not clear. We used dual color fluorescence correlation spectroscopy to study the intermediates during nucleosome disassembly induced by changing ionic strength. Studying the nature of nucleosome conformational change and the kinetics is very important in understanding gene expression. The results from this thesis give a quantitative description to the basic unit of the chromatin.