Acetylation of histones bound to rat rRNA genes has been studied relative to their organization in chromatin, either as canonical nucleosomes, containing the inactive copies, or as anucleosomal nonrepeating structures, corresponding to the transcribed genes (Conconi, A., Widmer, R. M., Koller, T., and Sogo, J. M. (1989) Cell 57, 753-761). Nuclei from butyrate-treated rat tumor cells were irradiated with a UV laser to cross-link proteins to DNA, and the purified covalent complexes were immunofractionated by an antibody that specifically recognized the acetylated histones. Upon probing with sequences coding for mature rat 28 S RNA, DNA of the antibody-bound complexes was 5-20-fold enriched relative to the total rat DNA. Since the laser cross-links histones to DNA in both active and inactive genes, one cannot distinguish which one of them, or both, are bound to acetylated histones. Alternatively, purified mononucleosomes were immunofractionated, but DNA from the antibody-bound monosomes was not enriched in coding rDNA. Taken together, these results suggest that nucleosome-organized rRNA genes are bound to nonmodified histones and that the acetylated histones are associated with the active, anucleosomal gene copies.
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