The multiple classes of binding sites for the progesterone-receptor complex in hen oviduct muclei were found to be of chromatin origin. The highest-affinity, and presumably most physiologically important class, is localized in oviduct chromatin and contains approx. 6000-10000 sites per nucleus. None of these sites is detected in spleen chromatin. Two new techniques were used for assaying rapidly the binding of steroid-receptor complexes to soluble deoxyribonucleoproteins in vito. The extent of high-affinity binding by the nucleo-acidic protein fraction from spleen chromatin is as great as that by the nucleo-acidic protein from oviduct chromatin. Consequently the tissue-specific nuclear binding of the progesterone receptor is found not to be a consequence of the absence of the nuclear binding sites (acceptors) from chromatin of non-target tissue (spleen), but rather a result of complete masking of these sites. In the target-tissue (oviduct) chromatin, approx. 70% of the high-affinity acceptor sites are also masked. Acidic proteins, and not histones, appear to be responsible for the masking of these acceptor sites. In addition, acidic proteins represent (or at least are an essential part of) these high-affinity sites in the oviduct nucleus. Pure DNA displays a few high-and many low-affinity binding sites. In support of previous work with immature chicks, the acidic protein fraction of the nucleo-acidic results thus support the hypotheis that protein complexed with DNA, and not DNA alone, represent the high-affinity binding sites for the steroid-receptor complexes in nuclear chromatin. The lower-affinity classes of binding sites may represent DNA and/or other nuclear components.

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