A view of interphase chromosomes

Science  14 Dec 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4987, pp. 1533-1540
DOI: 10.1126/science.2274784


Metaphase chromosomes are dynamically modified in interphase. This review focuses on how these structures can be modified, and explores the functional mechanisms and significance of these changes. Current analyses of genes often focus on relatively short stretches of DNA and consider chromatin conformations that incorporate only a few kilobases of DNA. In interphase nuclei, however, orderly transcription and replication can involve highly folded chromosomal domains containing hundreds of kilobases of DNA. Specific "junk" DNA sequences within selected chromosome domains may participate in more complex levels of chromosome folding, and may index different genetic compartments for orderly transcription and replication. Three-dimensional chromosome positions within the nucleus may also contribute to phenotypic expression. Entire chromosomes are maintained as discrete, reasonably compact entities in the nucleus, and heterochromatic coiled domains of several thousand kilobases can acquire unique three-dimensional positions in differentiated cell types. Some aspects of neoplasia may relate to alterations in chromosome structure at several higher levels of organization.

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