GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Craig Peterson, PhD


Chromatin, Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly, Heterochromatin, Non-Histone Chromosomal Proteins, Transcription Factors


Dissertations, UMMS; Chromatin; Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly; Heterochromatin; Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone; Transcription Factors


Eukaryotic DNA is incorporated into the nucleoprotein structure of chromatin. This structure is essential for the proper storage, maintenance, regulation, and function of the genomes’ constituent genes and genomic sequences. Importantly, cells generate discrete types of chromatin that impart distinct properties on genomic loci; euchromatin is an open and active compartment of the genome, and heterochromatin is a restricted and inactive compartment. Heterochromatin serves many purposes in vivo, from heritably silencing key gene loci during embryonic development, to preventing aberrant DNA repeat recombination. Despite this generally repressive role, the DNA contained within heterochromatin must still be repaired and replicated, creating a need for regulated dynamic access into silent heterochromatin. In this work, we discover and characterize activities that the ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling enzyme SWI/SNF uses to disrupt repressive heterochromatin structure.

First, we find two specific physical interactions between the SWI/SNF core subunit Swi2p and the heterochromatin structural protein Sir3p. We find that disrupting these physical interactions results in a SWI/SNF complex that can hydrolyze ATP and slide nucleosomes like normal, but is defective in its ability to evict Sir3p off of heterochromatin. In vivo, we find that this Sir3p eviction activity is required for proper DNA replication, and for establishment of silent chromatin, but not for SWI/SNF’s traditional roles in transcription. These data establish new roles for ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling in regulating heterochromatin.

Second, we discover that SWI/SNF can disrupt heterochromatin structures that contain all three Sir proteins: Sir2p, Sir3p and Sir4p. This new disruption activity requires nucleosomal contacts that are essential for silent chromatin formation in vivo. We find that SWI/SNF evicts all three heterochromatin proteins off of chromatin. Surprisingly, we also find that the presence of Sir2p and Sir4p on chromatin stimulates SWI/SNF to evict histone proteins H2A and H2B from nucleosomes. Apart from discovering a new potential mechanism of heterochromatin dynamics, these data also establish a new paradigm of chromatin remodeling enzyme regulation by nonhistone proteins present on the substrate.


Dataset 1 in Chapter II is available under "Additional Files".



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pnas.1420096111.sd01.xlsx (680 kB)
Dataset S1. RNA-seq gene expression analysis of SWI2 and swi2–Δ10R