HeLa cells depleted of polyamines by treatment with alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), methylglyoxal bis(guanylhydrazone) (MGBG) or a combination of the two, were examined for sensitivity to micrococcal nuclease, DNAase I and DNAase II. The degrees of chromatin accessibility to DNAase I and II appeared enhanced somewhat in all three treatment groups, and the released digestion products differed from those in non-depleted cells. DNA released from MGBG- and DFMO/MGBG-treated cells by DNAase II digestion was enriched 4-7-fold for Mg2+-soluble species relative to controls. DNA released by micrococcal nuclease digestion from all three treatment groups was characterized as consisting of higher-order nucleosomal structure than was DNA released from untreated cells. At least some of the altered chromatin properties were abolished by a brief treatment of cells with polyamines, notably spermine. These studies provide the first demonstration in vivo of altered chromatin structure in cells treated with inhibitors of polyamine biosynthesis.

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