Abstract

Nucleosome assembly in the wake of DNA replication is a key process that regulates cell identity and survival. Chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF-1) is a H3-H4 histone chaperone that associates with the replisome and orchestrates chromatin assembly following DNA synthesis. Little is known about the mechanism and structure of this key complex. Here we investigate the CAF-1•H3-H4 binding mode and the mechanism of nucleosome assembly. We show that CAF-1 binding to a H3-H4 dimer activates the Cac1 winged helix domain interaction with DNA. This drives the formation of a transient CAF-1•histone•DNA intermediate containing two CAF-1 complexes, each associated with one H3-H4 dimer. Here, the (H3-H4)2 tetramer is formed and deposited onto DNA. Our work elucidates the molecular mechanism for histone deposition by CAF-1, a reaction that has remained elusive for other histone chaperones, and it advances our understanding of how nucleosomes and their epigenetic information are maintained through DNA replication.

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