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Structural changes in single chromatin fibers induced by tension and torsion

Promotor: Prof.dr. T. Schmidt, Co-promotor: Dr. ir. S. J.T. van Noort

H. Meng
09 October 2014
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Since the discovery of the right-handed helical structure of DNA, 61 years have passed. The DNA molecule, which encodes genetic information, is also found twisted into coils. This extra twist of the helical structure, called supercoiling, plays important roles in both DNA compaction and gene regulation. The DNA in eukaryotic cells is packaged into chromatin. Using single-molecule force spectroscopy, I resolved force/torque induced structural changes of DNA and chromatin fibers. I showed that the structural changes of chromatin fibers can be described by four conformations. I showed for the first time the folding and unfolding of a chromatin fiber under torsion. Th e anisotropic response of chromatin fibers to supercoiling reflects its leftŸ-handed chirality. These findings give a detailed structural insight of a supercoiled chromatin fiber, yielding a better understanding of the response of chromatin during transcription.

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