Background: We have studied the nucleosome structure formed from alpha-satellite DNA bound with CENP-B and core histones, in order to develop a previous proposal that the CENP-B dimer may play a critical role in the assembly of higher order structures of the human centromere by juxtaposing CENP-B boxes in long alpha-satellite arrays.
Results: The dimeric structure of CENP-B was sufficiently stable to bundle together two 3.5 kbp DNA fragments when each DNA contained a CENP-B box. When the same length of DNA included two CENP-B boxes, the intra-molecular interaction with the CENP-B dimer predominated, resulting in the formation of loop structures. The in vitro assembly of CENP-B/alpha-satellite DNA/core histone complexes with the aid of nucleosome assembly protein-1 (NAP-1) permitted an investigation into the nucleosome arrangement in alpha-satellite DNA with CENP-B bound to CENP-B boxes. Footprint analyses with micrococcal nuclease (MNase) revealed that CENP-B causes nucleosome positioning between pairs of CENP-B boxes with unique hypersensitive sites created on both sides.
Conclusion: We propose that CENP-B functions as a structural factor in the centromere region in order to establish a unique, centromere specific pattern of nucleosome positioning.