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We have been unable to "force" double-stranded RNA to fold into nucleosome-like structures using several different histone-RNA "reconstitution" procedures. Even if the histones are first stabilized in octameric form by dimethylsuberimidate cross-linking they are still unable to form specific complexes with the RNA. Moreover double-stranded RNA is unable to induce histones to assemble into octamers although we confirm that the non-nucleic acid homopolymer, polyglutamic acid, has this ability. We have also determined, using pyrimidine tract analysis, that nucleosomes will not form over a sufficiently long segment of poly(dA).poly(dT) in a recombinant DNA molecule. Thus nucleosomes cannot fold DNA containing an 80 base pair poly(dA).poly(dT) segment but a 20 base pair segment can be accommodated in nucleosomes fairly well. Segments of intermediate length can be accommodated but are clearly selected against. Poly(dA).poly(dT) differs only slightly from natural DNA in helix structure. Therefore either this homopolymer resists folding, or nucleosomes are very exacting in the nucleic acid steroid parameters they will tolerate. Such constraints may be relevant to nucleosome positioning in chromatin.