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Open Access Research article

Global remodeling of nucleosome positions in C. elegans

George Locke1, Devorah Haberman2, Steven M Johnson3 and Alexandre V Morozov1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physics and Astronomy and BioMaPS Institute for Quantitative Biology, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA

2 Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA

3 Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 84602, USA

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:284  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-284

Published: 26 April 2013



Eukaryotic chromatin architecture is affected by intrinsic histone-DNA sequence preferences, steric exclusion between nucleosome particles, formation of higher-order structures, and in vivo activity of chromatin remodeling enzymes.


To disentangle sequence-dependent nucleosome positioning from the other factors, we have created two high-throughput maps of nucleosomes assembled in vitro on genomic DNA from the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. A comparison of in vitro nucleosome positions with those observed in a mixed-stage, mixed-tissue population of C. elegans cells reveals that in vivo sequence preferences are modified on the genomic scale. Indeed, G/C dinucleotides are predicted to be most favorable for nucleosome formation in vitro but not in vivo. Nucleosome sequence read coverage in vivo is distinctly lower in chromosome arms than in central regions; the observed changes in apparent nucleosome sequence specificity, likely due to genome-wide chromatin remodeler activity, contribute to the formation of these megabase-scale chromatin domains. We also observe that the majority of well-positioned in vivo nucleosomes do not occupy thermodynamically favorable sequences observed in vitro. Finally, we find that exons are intrinsically more amenable to nucleosome formation compared to introns. Nucleosome occupancy of introns and exons consistently increases with G/C content in vitro but not in vivo, in agreement with our observation that G/C dinucleotide enrichment does not strongly promote in vivo nucleosome formation.


Our findings highlight the importance of both sequence specificity and active nucleosome repositioning in creating large-scale chromatin domains, and the antagonistic roles of intrinsic sequence preferences and chromatin remodelers in C. elegans.

Sequence read data has been deposited into Sequence Read Archive ( webcite; accession number SRA050182). Additional data, software and computational predictions are available on the Nucleosome Explorer website ( webcite).

Nucleosome; Histone-DNA interactions; Chromatin domains; Nucleosome positioning