Research Article

Organization of the Mitotic Chromosome

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Science  22 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6161, pp. 948-953
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236083

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Chromosome Conundrum

The three-dimensional organization of chromosomal DNA within the cell nucleus plays an important role in gene regulation. Naumova et al. (p. 948, published online 7 November; see the Perspective by Kleckner et al.) used chromosome conformation capture-based methods in human tissue culture cells to analyze the higher order folding of human chromosomes across the cell cycle. During interphase the chromosomes showed locus-specific compart-mentalization. In mitotic cells, on the other hand, the chromosome organization was more linear, consistent with arrays of consecutive chromatin loops.


Mitotic chromosomes are among the most recognizable structures in the cell, yet for over a century their internal organization remains largely unsolved. We applied chromosome conformation capture methods, 5C and Hi-C, across the cell cycle and revealed two distinct three-dimensional folding states of the human genome. We show that the highly compartmentalized and cell type–specific organization described previously for nonsynchronous cells is restricted to interphase. In metaphase, we identified a homogenous folding state that is locus-independent, common to all chromosomes, and consistent among cell types, suggesting a general principle of metaphase chromosome organization. Using polymer simulations, we found that metaphase Hi-C data are inconsistent with classic hierarchical models and are instead best described by a linearly organized longitudinally compressed array of consecutive chromatin loops.

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