Insights into the molecular architecture and histone H3-H4 deposition mechanism of yeast Chromatin assembly factor 1

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Paul Victor Sauer, Jennifer Timm, Danni Liu, David Sitbon, Elisabetta Boeri-Erba, Christophe Velours, Norbert Mücke, Jörg Langowski, Françoise Ochsenbein, Geneviève Almouzni, Daniel Panne

How the very first step in nucleosome assembly, deposition of histone H3-H4 as tetramers or dimers on DNA, is accomplished remains largely unclear. Here, we report that yeast chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF1), a conserved histone chaperone complex that deposits H3-H4 during DNA replication, binds a single H3-H4 heterodimer in solution. We identify a new DNA-binding domain in the large Cac1 subunit of CAF1, which is required for high-affinity DNA binding by the CAF1 three-subunit complex, and which is distinct from the previously described C-terminal winged-helix domain. CAF1 binds preferentially to DNA molecules longer than 40 bp, and two CAF1-H3-H4 complexes concertedly associate with DNA molecules of this size, resulting in deposition of H3-H4 tetramers. While DNA binding is not essential for H3–H4 tetrasome deposition in vitro, it is required for efficient DNA synthesis-coupled nucleosome assembly. Mutant histones with impaired H3-H4 tetramerization interactions fail to release from CAF1, indicating that DNA deposition of H3-H4 tetramers by CAF1 requires a hierarchical cooperation between DNA binding, H3-H4 deposition and histone tetramerization.