In eukaryotes, genomic DNA is compacted as chromatin, in which histones and DNA form the nucleosome as the basic unit. DMC1 and RAD51 are essential eukaryotic recombinases that mediate homologous chromosome pairing during homologous recombination. However, the means by which these two recombinases distinctly function in chromatin have remained elusive. Here we found that, in chromatin, the human DMC1-single-stranded DNA complex bypasses binding to the nucleosome, and preferentially promotes homologous pairing at the nucleosome-depleted regions. Consistently, DMC1 forms ternary complex recombination intermediates with the nucleosome-free DNA or the nucleosome-depleted DNA region. Surprisingly, removal of the histone tails improperly enhances the nucleosome binding by DMC1. In contrast, RAD51 does not specifically target the nucleosome-depleted region in chromatin. These are the first demonstrations that the chromatin architecture specifies the sites to promote the homologous recombination reaction by DMC1, but not by RAD51.
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