RSC and SWI/SNF are related ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling machines that move nucleosomes, regulating access to DNA. We addressed their roles in nucleosome phasing relative to transcription start sites in yeast. SWI/SNF has no effect on phasing at the global level. In contrast, RSC depletion results in global nucleosome repositioning: Both upstream and downstream nucleosomal arrays shift toward the nucleosome-depleted region (NDR), with no change in spacing, resulting in a narrower and partly filled NDR. The global picture of RSC-depleted chromatin represents the average of a range of chromatin structures, with most genes showing a shift of the +1 or the -1 nucleosome into the NDR. Using RSC ChIP data reported by others, we show that RSC occupancy is highest on the coding regions of heavily transcribed genes, though not at their NDRs. We propose that RSC has a role in restoring chromatin structure after transcription. Analysis of gene pairs in different orientations demonstrates that phasing patterns reflect competition between phasing signals emanating from neighboring NDRs. These signals may be in phase, resulting in constructive interference and a regular array, or out of phase, resulting in destructive interference and fuzzy positioning. We propose a modified barrier model, in which a stable complex located at the NDR acts as a bidirectional phasing barrier. In RSC-depleted cells, this barrier has a smaller footprint, resulting in narrower NDRs. Thus, RSC plays a critical role in organizing yeast chromatin.
Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.