Effects of oligonucleotide sequence motifs and DNA methylation on nucleosome stability

Clayton Kenneth Collings, Purdue University


To gain a better understanding of the sequence patterns that characterize positioned nucleosomes, we first performed an analysis of the periodicities of the 256 tetranucleotides in a yeast genome-wide library of nucleosomal DNA sequences that was prepared by in vitro reconstitution. The approach entailed the identification and analysis of 24 unique tetranucleotides that were defined by 8 consensus sequences. These consensus sequences were shown to be responsible for most if not all of the tetranucleotide and dinucleotide periodicities displayed by the entire library, demonstrating that the periodicities of dinucleotides that characterize the yeast genome are, in actuality, due primarily to the 8 consensus sequences. A novel combination of experimental and bioinformatic approaches was then used to show that these tetranucleotides are important for preferred formation of nucleosomes at specific sites along DNA in vitro. These results were then compared to tetranucleotide patterns in genome-wide in vivo libraries from yeast and C. elegans in order to assess the contributions of DNA sequence in the control of nucleosome residency in the cell. These comparisons revealed striking similarities in the tetranucleotide occurrence profiles that are likely to be involved in nucleosome positioning in both in vitro and in vivo libraries, suggesting that DNA sequence is an important factor in the control of nucleosome placement in vivo. However, the strengths of the tetranucleotide periodicities were 3–4 fold higher in the in vitro as compared to the in vivo libraries, which implies that DNA sequence plays less of a role in dictating nucleosome positions in vivo. The results of this study have important implications for models of sequence-dependent positioning since they suggest that a defined subset of tetranucleotides is involved in preferred nucleosome occupancy and that these tetranucleotides are the major source of the dinucleotide periodicities that are characteristic of positioned nucleosomes. Methylation of DNA at CpG dinucleotides represents one of the most important epigenetic mechanisms involved in the control of gene expression in vertebrate cells. In this report, we conducted nucleosome reconstitution experiments in conjunction with high-throughput sequencing on 572 KB of human DNA and 668 KB of mouse DNA that was unmethylated or methylated in order to investigate the effects of this epigenetic modification on the positioning and stability of nucleosomes. The results demonstrated that a subset of nucleosomes positioned by nucleotide sequence was sensitive to methylation where the modification increased the affinity of these sequences for the histone octamer. The features that distinguished these nucleosomes from the bulk of the methylation-insensitive nucleosomes were an increase in the frequency of CpG dinucleotides and a unique rotational orientation of CpGs such that their minor grooves tended to face toward the histones in the nucleosome rather than away. These methylation-sensitive nucleosomes were preferentially associated with exons as compared to introns while unmethylated CpG islands near transcription start sites became enriched in nucleosomes upon methylation. The results of this study suggest that the effects of DNA methylation on nucleosome stability in vitro can recapitulate what has been observed in the cell and provide a direct link between DNA methylation and the structure and function of chromatin.




Anderson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

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