Chromatin fibers stabilize nucleosomes under torsional stress

Artur Kaczmarczyk, He Meng, Orkide Ordu, John van Noort*, Nynke H. Dekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
80 Downloads (Pure)


Torsional stress generated during DNA replication and transcription has been suggested to facilitate nucleosome unwrapping and thereby the progression of polymerases. However, the propagation of twist in condensed chromatin remains yet unresolved. Here, we measure how force and torque impact chromatin fibers with a nucleosome repeat length of 167 and 197. We find that both types of fibers fold into a left-handed superhelix that can be stabilized by positive torsion. We observe that the structural changes induced by twist were reversible, indicating that chromatin has a large degree of elasticity. Our direct measurements of torque confirmed the hypothesis of chromatin fibers as a twist buffer. Using a statistical mechanics-based torsional spring model, we extracted values of the chromatin twist modulus and the linking number per stacked nucleosome that were in good agreement with values measured here experimentally. Overall, our findings indicate that the supercoiling generated by DNA-processing enzymes, predicted by the twin-supercoiled domain model, can be largely accommodated by the higher-order structure of chromatin.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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