Nature structural & molecular biology

H2A.Z nucleosomes enriched over active genes are homotypic.

PMID 21057526


Nucleosomes that contain the histone variant H2A.Z are enriched around transcriptional start sites, but the mechanistic basis for this enrichment is unknown. A single octameric nucleosome can contain two H2A.Z histones (homotypic) or one H2A.Z and one canonical H2A (heterotypic). To elucidate the function of H2A.Z, we generated high-resolution maps of homotypic and heterotypic Drosophila H2A.Z (H2Av) nucleosomes. Although homotypic and heterotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes mapped throughout most of the genome, homotypic nucleosomes were enriched and heterotypic nucleosomes were depleted downstream of active promoters and intron-exon junctions. The distribution of homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes resembled that of classical active chromatin and showed evidence of disruption during transcriptional elongation. Both homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes and classical active chromatin were depleted downstream of paused polymerases. Our results suggest that H2A.Z enrichment patterns result from intrinsic structural differences between heterotypic and homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes that follow disruption during transcriptional elongation.