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Open Access Research article

An ensemble of B-DNA dinucleotide geometries lead to characteristic nucleosomal DNA structure and provide plasticity required for gene expression

Arvind Marathe and Manju Bansal*

Author Affiliations

Molecular Biophysics Unit, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore - 12, India

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BMC Structural Biology 2011, 11:1  doi:10.1186/1472-6807-11-1

Published: 5 January 2011

Abstract

Background

A nucleosome is the fundamental repeating unit of the eukaryotic chromosome. It has been shown that the positioning of a majority of nucleosomes is primarily controlled by factors other than the intrinsic preference of the DNA sequence. One of the key questions in this context is the role, if any, that can be played by the variability of nucleosomal DNA structure.

Results

In this study, we have addressed this question by analysing the variability at the dinucleotide and trinucleotide as well as longer length scales in a dataset of nucleosome X-ray crystal structures. We observe that the nucleosome structure displays remarkable local level structural versatility within the B-DNA family. The nucleosomal DNA also incorporates a large number of kinks.

Conclusions

Based on our results, we propose that the local and global level versatility of B-DNA structure may be a significant factor modulating the formation of nucleosomes in the vicinity of high-plasticity genes, and in varying the probability of binding by regulatory proteins. Hence, these factors should be incorporated in the prediction algorithms and there may not be a unique 'template' for predicting putative nucleosome sequences. In addition, the multimodal distribution of dinucleotide parameters for some steps and the presence of a large number of kinks in the nucleosomal DNA structure indicate that the linear elastic model, used by several algorithms to predict the energetic cost of nucleosome formation, may lead to incorrect results.