Alteration of nucleosome structure as a mechanism of transcriptional regulation

Annu Rev Biochem. 1998;67:545-79. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.67.1.545.


The nucleosome, which is the primary building block of chromatin, is not a static structure: It can adopt alternative conformations. Changes in solution conditions or changes in histone acetylation state cause nucleosomes and nucleosomal arrays to behave with altered biophysical properties. Distinct subpopulations of nucleosomes isolated from cells have chromatographic properties and nuclease sensitivity different from those of bulk nucleosomes. Recently, proteins that were initially identified as necessary for transcriptional regulation have been shown to alter nucleosomal structure. These proteins are found in three types of multiprotein complexes that can acetylate nucleosomes, deacetylate nucleosomes, or alter nucleosome structure in an ATP-dependent manner. The direct modification of nucleosome structure by these complexes is likely to play a central role in appropriate regulation of eukaryotic genes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Eukaryotic Cells
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism*
  • Nucleosomes / ultrastructure
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes