PerspectiveChromatin Dynamics

Building chromosomes without bricks

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Science  23 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6344, pp. 1233-1234
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8090

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Summary

Imagine stowing all 401 km of the London Underground rail network into a suitcase. That's equivalent to cramming four meters of DNA that harbor the genetic blueprint of our lives into a micrometer-sized human cell nucleus. During cell division, this enormous amount of DNA is packed into neatly shaped and structurally stable chromosomes, which allows the faithful segregation of genetic material to daughter cells. This packaging task relies on the work of sophisticated molecular machines (1). On page 1284 of this issue, Shintomi et al. (2) report that chromosomes can be assembled based on condensin-containing axes, challenging the long-held view that nucleosomes are essential to chromosome architecture.