The Active Mechanism of Nucleosome Depletion by Poly(dA:dT) Tracts In Vivo

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jul 30;22(15):8233. doi: 10.3390/ijms22158233.


Poly(dA:dT) tracts cause nucleosome depletion in many species, e.g., at promoters and replication origins. Their intrinsic biophysical sequence properties make them stiff and unfavorable for nucleosome assembly, as probed by in vitro nucleosome reconstitution. The mere correlation between nucleosome depletion over poly(dA:dT) tracts in in vitro reconstituted and in in vivo chromatin inspired an intrinsic nucleosome exclusion mechanism in vivo that is based only on DNA and histone properties. However, we compile here published and new evidence that this correlation does not reflect mechanistic causation. (1) Nucleosome depletion over poly(dA:dT) in vivo is not universal, e.g., very weak in S. pombe. (2) The energy penalty for incorporating poly(dA:dT) tracts into nucleosomes is modest (<10%) relative to ATP hydrolysis energy abundantly invested by chromatin remodelers. (3) Nucleosome depletion over poly(dA:dT) is much stronger in vivo than in vitro if monitored without MNase and (4) actively maintained in vivo. (5) S. cerevisiae promoters evolved a strand-biased poly(dA) versus poly(dT) distribution. (6) Nucleosome depletion over poly(dA) is directional in vivo. (7) The ATP dependent chromatin remodeler RSC preferentially and directionally displaces nucleosomes towards 5' of poly(dA). Especially distribution strand bias and displacement directionality would not be expected for an intrinsic mechanism. Together, this argues for an in vivo mechanism where active and species-specific read out of intrinsic sequence properties, e.g., by remodelers, shapes nucleosome organization.

Keywords: RSC; S. cerevisiae; chromatin; nucleosome; poly(dA:dT); remodeling; yeast.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AT Rich Sequence*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
  • Nucleosomes / chemistry
  • Nucleosomes / genetics*
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Schizosaccharomyces


  • Nucleosomes