Sequence and position-dependence of the equilibrium accessibility of nucleosomal DNA target sites

J Mol Biol. 2000 Mar 3;296(4):979-87. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.2000.3531.


We have previously shown that nucleosomes are conformationally dynamic: DNA sequences that in the time-average are buried inside nucleosomes are nevertheless transiently accessible, even to large proteins (or any other macromolecule). We refer to this dynamic behavior as "site exposure". Here we show that: (i) the equilibrium constants describing this dynamic site exposure decrease progressively from either end of the nucleosomal DNA in toward the middle; and (ii) these position-dependent equilibrium constants are strongly dependent on the nucleosomal DNA sequence. The progressive decrease in equilibrium constant with distance inside the nucleosome supports the hypothesis that access to sites internal to a nucleosome is provided by progressive (transient) release of DNA from the octamer surface, starting from one end of the nucleosomal DNA. The dependence on genomic DNA sequence implies that a specific genomic DNA sequence could be a major determinant of target site occupancies achieved by regulatory proteins in vivo, by either governing the time-averaged accessibility for a given nucleosome position, or biasing the time-averaged positioning (of mobile nucleosomes), which in turn is a major determinant of site accessibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes / chemistry
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Kinetics
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleosomes / chemistry
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism*
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid


  • Nucleosomes
  • DNA
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes