Self-assembly is the autonomous organization of constituents into higher order structures or assemblages and is a fundamental mechanism in biological systems. There has been an unfounded idea that self-assembly may be used in the sensing and pairing of homologous chromosomes or chromatin, including meiotic chromosome pairing, polytene chromosome formation in Diptera and transvection. Recent studies proved that double-stranded DNA molecules have a sequence-sensing property and can self-assemble, which may play a role in the above phenomena. However, to explain these processes in terms of self-assembly, it first must be proved that nucleosomes retain a DNA sequence-sensing property and can self-assemble. Here, using atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based analyses and a quantitative interaction assay, we show that nucleosomes with identical DNA sequences preferentially associate with each other in the presence of Mg 2+ ions. Using Xenopus borealis 5S rDNA nucleosome-positioning sequence and 601 and 603 sequences, homomeric or heteromeric octa- or tetranucleosomes were reconstituted in vitro and induced to form weak intracondensates by MgCl2. AFM clearly showed that DNA sequence-based selective association occurs between nucleosomes with identical DNA sequences. Selective association was also detected between mononucleosomes. We propose that nucleosome self-assembly and DNA self-assembly constitute the mechanism underlying sensing and pairing of homologous chromosomes or chromatin.
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