Insight into the mechanism of nucleosome reorganization from histone mutants that suppress defects in the FACT histone chaperone.
FACT (FAcilitates Chromatin Transcription/Transactions) plays a central role in transcription and replication in eukaryotes by both establishing and overcoming the repressive properties of chromatin. FACT promotes these opposing goals by interconverting nucleosomes between the canonical form and a more open reorganized form. In the forward direction, reorganization destabilizes nucleosomes, while the reverse reaction promotes nucleosome assembly. Nucleosome destabilization involves disrupting contacts among histone H2A-H2B dimers, (H3-H4)(2) tetramers, and DNA. Here we show that mutations that weaken the dimer:tetramer interface in nucleosomes suppress defects caused by FACT deficiency in vivo in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Mutating the gene that encodes the Spt16 subunit of FACT causes phenotypes associated with defects in transcription and replication, and we identify histone mutants that selectively suppress those associated with replication. Analysis of purified components suggests that the defective version of FACT is unable to maintain the reorganized nucleosome state efficiently, whereas nucleosomes with mutant histones are reorganized more easily than normal. The genetic suppression observed when the FACT defect is combined with the histone defect therefore reveals the importance of the dynamic reorganization of contacts within nucleosomes to the function of FACT in vivo, especially to FACT's apparent role in promoting progression of DNA replication complexes. We also show that an H2B mutation causes different phenotypes, depending on which of the two similar genes that encode this protein are altered, revealing unexpected functional differences between these duplicated genes and calling into question the practice of examining the effects of histone mutants by expressing them from a single plasmid-borne allele.