A brief review of nucleosome structure

FEBS Lett. 2015 Oct 7;589(20 Pt A):2914-22. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2015.05.016. Epub 2015 May 14.


The nucleosomal subunit organization of chromatin provides a multitude of functions. Nucleosomes elicit an initial ∼7-fold linear compaction of genomic DNA. They provide a critical mechanism for stable repression of genes and other DNA-dependent activities by restricting binding of trans-acting factors to cognate DNA sequences. Conversely they are engineered to be nearly meta-stable and disassembled (and reassembled) in a facile manner to allow rapid access to the underlying DNA during processes such as transcription, replication and DNA repair. Nucleosomes protect the genome from DNA damaging agents and provide a lattice onto which a myriad of epigenetic signals are deposited. Moreover, vast strings of nucleosomes provide a framework for assembly of the chromatin fiber and higher-order chromatin structures. Thus, in order to provide a foundation for understanding these functions, we present a review of the basic elements of nucleosome structure and stability, including the association of linker histones.

Keywords: Chromatin structure; Histone; Nucleosome structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / ultrastructure
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Replication
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleosomes / physiology
  • Nucleosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • DNA