The priming capacity of chromatin of fixed nuclei and chromosomes for exogenous DNA polymerase can be evaluated radioautographically by the incorporation of labeled nucleotides. It had previously been reported that acid fixation or acid treatment of alcohol-fixed tissues led to increased priming when calf thymus DNA polymerases, specific for single-stranded DNA, were used. We employed Escherichia coli DNA polymerase and sequential treatments of the fixed tissue with acid and poly-L-lysine in order to elucidate the mechanism through which the acid effect is produced. Acid treatment enhanced chromatin priming for the E coli DNA polymerase, and saturation of the chromatin with poly-L-lysine strongly inhibited the reaction. This inhibition was reversible through subsequent treatment with acid. Wide differences in priming were observed between cell types of alcohol-fixed chicken blood smears: thrombocyte and lymphocyte nuclei exhibited strong priming ability whereas erythrocyte nuclei failed to support any detectable priming. We conclude that the acid effect is readily interpretable in terms of acid-mediated changes in the association between DNA and protein in the chromatin complex.

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