Conservative assembly and segregation of nucleosomal histones

Cell. 1977 Nov;12(3):837-45. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(77)90282-3.


The assembly of new histones into nucleosomes and the segregation of old histones during replication were investigated using a density gradient, sedimentation equilibrium analysis of histones labeled in vivo with dense amino acids. After a 1 hr pulse of dense amino acids and 3H-lysine, nucleosomes were isolated from chick myoblast organ cultures, and the histones were cross-linked to octamers. The octamers were purified from DNA and then banded to equilibrium in cesium-formate guanidinium-HCI density gradients. The cross-linked dense octamers have the same density as the noncross-linked dense histones, and both were significantly heavier than histones synthesized in the presence of light amino acids. This experiment shows that new histone does not mix with old histone in the new nucleosomes, since the labeling protocol allows density labeling of only one histone for every seven preexisting unlabeled histones. Thus the assembly of new histone octamers is conservative. Using essentially the same experimental design, but varying the details of the labeling procedures, we also show that the dense histone octamer is stable over 3-4 generations, that neighboring octamers tend to be synthesized at the same time, and that old and new histone octamers segregate conservatively over 2-3 generations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chromosomes / metabolism*
  • Culture Techniques
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA Replication
  • Histones / biosynthesis*
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Muscles


  • Histones
  • DNA
  • Lysine