Skip to main content
Events Calendar

Physical Chemistry Seminar

Monday, April 22 at 2:00pm

Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall, 140
1030 E 13th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97403

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Physical Chemistry Seminar Series

Professor Anatoly Kolomeisky, Rice University
Hosted by: Marina Guenza

How To Find Targets That Are Always Hidden:
The Story of Nucleosome-Covered DNA and Pioneer Transcription Factors

All major biological processes start after transcription factors detect specific regulatory sequences on DNA and initiate genetic expression by associating to them. But in eukaryotic cells, much of the DNA is covered by nucleosomes, preventing the transcription factors from binding to their targets. At the same time, experiments show that there are several classes of proteins, called “pioneer transcription factors”, that can penetrate chromatin structures. However, the underlying microscopic mechanisms remain not well understood. We propose a new theoretical approach that might explain these observations. It is argued that due to structural similarity with linker histones, pioneer transcription factors might weaken the interactions between the DNA and the nucleosome by substituting them with similar interactions between pioneer transcription factors and DNA. Using this idea, we develop a discrete-state stochastic framework that allows for explicit calculations of target search dynamics on nucleosomal DNA. It is found that finding specific sequences on nucleosomal DNA for pioneer transcription factors might be significantly accelerated while the search is slower on naked DNA segments in comparison with normal transcription factors. In addition, it is shown that nucleosome breathing makes the target search by pioneer transcription factors even faster, and theoretical arguments to explain these observations are presented. Our theoretical predictions are supported by Monte Carlo computer simulations, and they also agree with available experimental observations, providing new microscopic insights on complex nature of protein-DNA interactions. 

Event Type

Academic, Lectures & Presentations, Seminar, Research, Guest Speaker


College of Arts & Sciences, Chemistry

Target Audience

Faculty/Staff, Graduate Students, Undergraduate Students


Recent Activity