Making sense of transcribing chromatin

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2012 Jun;24(3):296-304. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Mar 10.


Eukaryotic cells package their genomes into a nucleoprotein form called chromatin. The basic unit of chromatin is the nucleosome, formed by the wrapping of ∼147bp of DNA around an octameric complex of core histones. Advances in genomic technologies have enabled the locations of nucleosomes to be mapped across genomes. This has revealed a striking organisation with respect to transcribed genes in a diverse range of eukaryotes. This consists of a nucleosome depleted region upstream of promoters, with an array of well spaced nucleosomes extending into coding regions. This observation reinforces the links between chromatin organisation and transcription. Central to this is the paradox that while chromatin is required by eukaryotes to restrict inappropriate access to DNA, this must be overcome in order for genetic information to be expressed. This conundrum is at its most flagrant when considering the need for nucleic acid polymerase's to transit 1000's of based pairs of DNA wrapped as arrays of nucleosomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / physiology*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Polymerase II / physiology*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Nucleosomes
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • DNA
  • DNA Polymerase II