Higher-order chromatin fibers (200--300 A in diameter) are reproducibly released from nuclei after lysis in the absence of formalin and/or detergent. Electron microscope analysis of these fibers shows that they are composed of a continuous array of closely apposed nucleosomes which display several distinct packing patterns. Analysis of the organization of nucleosomes within these arrays and their distribution along long stretches of chromatin suggest that the basic 100-A chromatin fiber is not packed into discrete superbeads and is not folded into a uniform solenoid within the native 250-A fiber. Furthermore, because similar higher-order fibers have been visualized in metaphase chromosomes, the existence of this fiber class appears to be independent of the degree of in vivo chromatin condensation.

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