A Genetically Encoded Approach for Breaking Chromatin Symmetry

Bradley J. Lukasak, Robert E. Thompson, Michelle M. Mitchener, Vanessa J. Feng, John D. Bagert, Tom W. Muir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Nucleosomes frequently exist as asymmetric species in native chromatin contexts. Current methods for the traceless generation of these heterotypic chromatin substrates are inefficient and/or difficult to implement. Here, we report an application of the SpyCatcher/SpyTag system as a convenient route to assemble desymmetrized nucleoprotein complexes. This genetically encoded covalent tethering system serves as an internal chaperone, maintained through the assembly process, affording traceless asymmetric nucleosomes following proteolytic removal of the tethers. The strategy allows for generation of nucleosomes containing asymmetric modifications on single or multiple histones, thereby providing facile access to a range of substrates. Herein, we use such constructs to interrogate how nucleosome desymmetrization caused by the incorporation of cancer-associated histone mutations alters chromatin remodeling processes. We also establish that our system provides access to asymmetric dinucleosomes, which allowed us to query the geometric/symmetry constraints of the unmodified histone H3 tail in stimulating the activity of the histone lysine demethylase, KDM5B. By providing a streamlined approach to generate these sophisticated substrates, our method expands the chemical biology toolbox available for interrogating the consequences of asymmetry on chromatin structure and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-183
Number of pages8
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 23 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


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