Effect of organic effectors on chromatin solubility, DNA-histone H1 interactions, DNA and histone H1 structures

J Biomol Struct Dyn. 1993 Aug;11(1):95-119. doi: 10.1080/07391102.1993.10508712.


We have extended our previous investigations on the effect of organic osmolytes (glycine, proline, taurine, mannitol, sorbitol and trimethylammonium oxide (TMAO)) on chromatin solubility, to the study of their influence on DNA stability and DNA-histone interactions. Our aim was to understand the molecular origin of the protection effects observed. To this end, we determined the amount of histone H1 required to precipitate DNA or H1-depleted chromatin, at various salt concentrations, in the presence of the above mentioned organic compounds. We found a shift of the H1/DNA ratio required to reach 50% precipitation, towards higher values. Taurine was the most efficient compound followed by mannitol and glycine, then sorbitol and proline. On the contrary, TMAO favoured the precipitation process. We attempted to interpret these results on the basis of Manning's counterion condensation theory. Changes in histone H1 structure folding and in DNA melting temperature Tm were also analyzed. Glycine, taurine, sorbitol and TMAO increased the degree of secondary structure folding of the protein while mannitol and sorbitol had no effect. Taurine, glycine and proline decreased the Tm of DNA, TMAO largely destabilized DNA, but mannitol and sorbitol had no effect. Measurements of NaCl activity in the presence of organic osmolytes did not reveal sufficiently large changes to account for their protection effect against chromatin precipitation. The osmotic coefficient j of the organic effectors solutions increased in the order: taurine < glycine < sorbitol < mannitol < proline << TMAO. For the two latter compounds, the j values increased above 1 at high concentration. We consider that the organic compounds investigated may be classified into three categories: (i) class I (zwitterionic compounds: glycine, proline, taurine) would produce sodium ions release from the DNA surface; (ii) class II (the very polar molecule TMAO) would increase sodium counterions condensation on DNA together with histone H1 folding; (iii) class III compounds (mannitol and sorbitol) would possibly produce a modification of NaCl activity but no definite explanation could be found for the complex behavior of these compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Chickens
  • Chromatin / drug effects
  • Chromatin / ultrastructure*
  • DNA / blood
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Erythrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Histones / blood
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Mannitol / pharmacology
  • Methylamines / pharmacology
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation / drug effects
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Proline / pharmacology
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation / drug effects
  • Solubility
  • Sorbitol / pharmacology
  • Taurine / pharmacology


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Methylamines
  • Taurine
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • DNA
  • Proline
  • trimethyloxamine
  • Calcium Chloride
  • Glycine