The SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex consists of more than ten component proteins that form a large protein complex of >1 MDa. The catalytic proteins Smarca4 or Smarca2 work in concert with the component proteins to form a chromatin platform suitable for transcriptional regulation. However, the mechanism by which each component protein works synergistically with the catalytic proteins remains largely unknown. Here, we report on the function of Smarce1, a component of the SWI/SNF complex, through the phenotypic analysis of homozygous mutant embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Disruption of Smarce1 induced the dissociation of other complex components from the SWI/SNF complex. Histone binding to DNA was loosened in homozygous mutant ESCs, indicating that disruption of Smarce1 decreased nucleosome stability. Sucrose gradient sedimentation analysis suggested that there was an ectopic genomic distribution of the SWI/SNF complex upon disruption of Smarce1, accounting for the misregulation of chromatin conformations. Unstable nucleosomes remained during ESC differentiation, impairing the heterochromatin formation that is characteristic of the differentiation process. These results suggest that Smarce1 guides the SWI/SNF complex to the appropriate genomic regions to generate chromatin structures adequate for transcriptional regulation.

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