Spatial organization of chromatin domains and compartments in single chromosomes

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Science  21 Jul 2016:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8084

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The spatial organization of chromatin critically impacts genome function. Recent chromosome-conformation-capture studies have revealed topologically associating domains (TADs) as a conserved feature of chromatin organization, but how TADs are spatially organized in individual chromosomes remains unknown. Here, we developed an imaging method for mapping the spatial positions of numerous genomic regions along individual chromosomes and traced the positions of TADs in human interphase autosomes and X chromosomes. We observed that chromosome folding deviates from the ideal fractal-globule model at large length scales and that TADs are organized into two compartments spatially arranged in a polarized fashion in individual chromosomes. Active and inactive X chromosomes adopt different folding and compartmentalization configurations. These results suggest that the spatial organization of chromatin domains can change in response to regulation.

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