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UMMS researchers answer century old question about 3D structure of mitotic chromosomes
Date:11/7/2013

. In the first phase, chromatin loops of 80,000 to 120,000 DNA base pairs form, radiating out from a scaffold and compacting the chromosome linearly. This was followed by axial compression of the chromosome, much like a spring being compressed, resulting in a neat, tightly folded package.

"Each cell type, whether blood, skin or liver cell, has a unique structure and organization that is closely tied to gene expression and function," said Dekker. "When the cell begins to divide that structure is disassembled. The specific patterns or organization tied to cell type are stripped away and the universal mitotic chromosome is formed. The process results in each cell being condensed and repackaged in a way that is common across cells types and points to a fundamental process of cell biology."

"When you look at the condensed chromosome it appears to be highly organized," said Dekker. "But the truth is that the process is very variable and adaptable because these chromatin loops form randomly along the chromosomes, which makes the process incredibly robust and adaptable."

Natalia Naumova, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at UMMS and one of the lead authors of the study said, "We didn't expect that the chromosome would be organized this way. This stochastic process, which is locally random, results more globally in a high degree of stability and robustness, which is needed for cells to divide successfully."

The next step for Dekker, Mirny and their teams is to determine what, precisely, is guiding the disassembling and reassembling of the chromosome. "Because most transcription largely ceases in mitosis, and many proteins dissociate from the chromosome, something has to be responsible for reassembling chromosomes after cell division according to their cell type. Understanding the organization of the mitotic chromosome will help to understand how things go wrong in disease caused by chromosome disorder such as cancer or Down syndrome."


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Contact: Jim Fessenden
james.fessenden@umassmed.edu
508-856-2000
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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