Yeast chromatin structure and regulation of GAL gene expression

Prog Nucleic Acid Res Mol Biol. 2001;65:197-259. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6603(00)65006-7.


Yeast genomic DNA is covered by nucleosome cores spaced by short, discrete length linkers. The short linkers, reinforced by novel histone properties, create a number of unique and dynamic nucleosome structural features in vivo: permanent unpeeling of DNA from the ends of the core, an inability to bind even full 147 bp core DNA lengths, and facility to undergo a conformational transition that resembles the changes found in active chromatin. These features probably explain how yeast can maintain most of its genome in a transcribable state and avoid large-scale packaging away of inactive genes. The GAL genes provide a closely regulated system in which to study gene-specific chromatin structure. GAL structural genes are inactive without galactose but are highly transcribed in its presence; the expression patterns of the regulatory genes can account for many of the features of GAL structural gene control. In the inactive state, GAL genes demonstrate a characteristic promoter chromosomal organization; the major upstream activation sequence (UASG) elements lie in open, hypersensitive regions, whereas the TATA and transcription start sites are in nucleosomes. This organization helps implement gene regulation in this state and may benefit the organism. Induction of GAL expression triggers Gal4p-dependent upstream nucleosome disruption. Disruption is transient and can readily be reversed by a Gal80p-dependent nucleosome deposition process. Both are sensitive to the metabolic state of the cell. Induction triggers different kinds of nucleosome changes on the coding sequences, perhaps reflecting the differing roles of nucleosomes on coding versus promoter regions. GAL gene activation is a complex process involving multiple Gal4p activities, numerous positive and negative cofactors, and the histone tails. DNA bending and chromosomal architecture of the promoter regions may also play a role in GAL regulation. Regulator-mediated competition between nucleosomes and the TATA binding protein complex for the TATA region is probably a central aspect of GAL regulation and a focal point for the numerous factors and processes that contribute to it.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • Genes, Fungal*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • Chromatin