Remodeling somatic nuclei in Xenopus laevis egg extracts: Molecular mechanisms for the selective release of histones H1 and H1° from chromatin and the acquisition of transcriptional competence

Stefan Dimitrov, Alan P. Wolffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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The molecular mechanisms responsible for the remodeling of entire somatic erythrocyte nuclei in Xenopus laevis egg cytoplasm have been examined. These transitions in chromosomal composition are associated with the capacity to activate new patterns of gene expression and the re-acquisition of replication competence. Somatic linker histone variants H1 and H1° are released from chromatin in egg cytoplasm, whereas the oocyte-specific linker histone B4 and HMG1 are efficiently incorporated into remodeled chromatin. Histone H1° is released from chromatin preferentially in comparison with histone H1. Core histones H2A and H4 in the somatic nucleus are phosphorylated during this remodeling process. These transitions recapitulate the chromosomal environment found within the nuclei of the early Xenopus embryo. Phosphorylation of somatic linker histone variants is demonstrated not to direct their release from chromatin, nor does direct competition with cytoplasmic stores of linker histone B4 determine their release. However, the molecular chaperone nucleoplasmin does have an important role in the selective removal of linker histones from somatic nuclei. For Xenopus erythrocyte nuclei, this disruption of chromatin structure leads to activation of the 5S rRNA genes. These results provide a molecular explanation for the remodeling of chromatin in Xenopus egg cytoplasm and indicate the capacity of molecular chaperones to disrupt a natural chromosomal environment, thereby facilitating transcription.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5897-5906
Number of pages10
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1996
Externally publishedYes



  • Chromatin
  • Histone
  • Transcriptional competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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