The linker region of macroH2A promotes self-association of nucleosomal arrays.
MacroH2A is a histone variant found in higher eukaryotes localized at the inactive X chromosome and is known to maintain heterochromatic regions in the genome. MacroH2A consists of a conserved histone domain and a macro domain connected by a linker region. To understand the contributions of the three domains to chromatin condensation, we incorporated various constructs of macroH2A into defined nucleosomal arrays and analyzed their impact on in vitro chromatin compaction. The folding and oligomerization properties of arrays containing full-length macroH2A (macroH2A(FL)), macroH2A(1-161) (encompassing the histone domain and linker region), and macroH2A(1-122) (histone domain only) were compared with major-type H2A arrays. Analytical ultracentrifugation and atomic force microscope imaging indicate that macroH2A(1-161)-containing arrays favor condensation under conditions where major-type arrays are nearly fully extended. In contrast, arrays with macroH2A(FL) exhibit behavior similar to that of major-type arrays. This suggests that the linker region of macroH2A facilitates array condensation and that this behavior is inhibited by the macro domain. Furthermore, chimeric major-type H2A arrays containing the macroH2A linker domain (H2A(ML)) exhibited the same condensation properties as macroH2A(1-161) arrays, thus emphasizing the intriguing behavior of the macroH2A linker region.