An ATP-dependent DNA translocase domain consisting of seven conserved motifs is a general feature of all ATP-dependent chromatin remodelers. While motifs on the ATPase domains of the yeast SWI/SNF and ISWI families of remodelers are highly conserved, the ATPase domains of these complexes appear not to be functionally interchangeable. We found one reason that may account for this is the ATPase domains interact differently with nucleosomes even though both associate with nucleosomal DNA 17-18 bp from the dyad axis. The cleft formed between the two lobes of the ISW2 ATPase domain is bound to nucleosomal DNA and Isw2 associates with the side of nucleosomal DNA away from the histone octamer. The ATPase domain of SWI/SNF binds to the same region of nucleosomal DNA, but is bound outside of the cleft region. The catalytic subunit of SWI/SNF also appears to intercalate between the DNA gyre and histone octamer. The altered interactions of SWI/SNF with DNA are specific to nucleosomes and do not occur with free DNA. These differences are likely mediated through interactions with the histone surface. The placement of SWI/SNF between the octamer and DNA could make it easier to disrupt histone-DNA interactions.
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