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The Histone H4 Tail Regulates the Conformation of the ATP-Binding Pocket in the SNF2h Chromatin Remodeling Enzyme


The chromatin remodeling complex ACF helps establish the appropriate nucleosome spacing for generating repressed chromatin states. ACF activity is stimulated by two defining features of the nucleosomal substrate: a basic patch on the histone H4 N-terminal tail and the specific length of flanking DNA. However, the mechanisms by which these two substrate cues function in the ACF remodeling reaction is not well understood. Using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy with spin-labeled ATP analogs to probe the structure of the ATP active site under physiological solution conditions, we identify a closed state of the ATP-binding pocket that correlates with ATPase activity. We find that the H4 tail promotes pocket closure. We further show that ATPase stimulation by the H4 tail does not require a specific structure connecting the H4 tail and the globular domain. In the case of many DNA helicases, closure of the ATP-binding pocket is regulated by specific DNA substrates. Pocket closure by the H4 tail may analogously provide a mechanism to directly couple substrate recognition to activity. Surprisingly, the flanking DNA, which also stimulates ATP hydrolysis, does not promote pocket closure, suggesting that the H4 tail and flanking DNA may be recognized in different reaction steps.

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