Dinoflagellates nuclei are unlike any other. They have: 1) highly inflated genome sizes, 2) practically lack histones and nucleosomal organization; 3) have permanently condensed liquid crystalline chromosomes throughout the life cycle, and; 4) contain a novel a major new nuclear DNA-binding protein. This protein, called Dinoflagellate/Viral NucleoProtein (DVNP) is small in size (10–20 kDa), highly positively charged (30–40 % R+K), and its gene is one of the most highly transcribed in dinoflagellate cells. It has no homology to histone proteins, has no homologues in either eukaryotes or prokaryotes, but is found in a number of marine large DNA viruses. To understand the role of DVNP in the dinoflagellate nuclei we have expressed and purified DVNP and are studying the properties of this novel protein and its interaction with DNA. We show that DVNP is a monomer in solution, but upon exposure to DNA it rapidly binds to and compacts DNA into complexes micrometers in size. Using single-molecule imaging and optical tweezers, DVNP is seen to compact DNA a rates of over 50 µm/sec and change the mechanical properties of DNA. Most interestingly, the DVNP/DNA aggregates show a propensity to travel along the DNA strand en masse. Together, these observations suggest that DVNP plays a central role in the novel model for chromatin management found in dinoflagellates.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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