We have investigated the role of the labile terminal domains of the core histones on the stability of the subunits of the protein core of the nucleosome by studying the thermodynamic behavior of the products of limited trypsin digestion of these subunits. The thermal stabilities of the truncated H2A-H2B dimer and the truncated (H3-H4)/(H3-H4)2 system were studied by high-sensitivity differential scanning calorimetry and circular dichroism spectroscopy. The thermal denaturation of the truncated H2A-H2B dimer at pH 6.0 and low ionic strength is centered at 47.3 °C. The corresponding enthalpy change is 35 kcal/mol of 11.5 kDa monomer unit, and the heat capacity change upon unfolding is 1.2 kcal/(K mol of 11.5 kDa monomer unit). At pH 4.5 and low ionic strength, the truncated (H3-H4)/(H3-H4)2 system, like its full-length counterpart, is quantitatively dissociated into two truncated H3-H4 dimers. The thermal denaturation of the truncated H3-H4 dimer is characterized by the presence of a single calorimetric peak centered at 60 °C. The enthalpy change is 25 kcal/mol of 10 kDa monomer unit, and the change in heat capacity upon unfolding is 0.5 kcal/(K mol of 10 kDa monomer unit). The thermal stabilities of both types of truncated dimers exhibit salt and pH dependencies similar to those of the full-length proteins. Finally, like their full-length counterparts, both truncated core histone dimers undergo thermal denaturation as highly cooperative units, without the involvement of any significant population of melting intermediates. Therefore, removal of the histone "tails" does not generally affect the thermodynamic behavior of the subunits of the core histone complex, indicating that the more centrally located regions of the histone fold and the extra-fold structured elements are primarily responsible for their stability and responses to parameters of their chemical microenvironment.
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