PerspectiveChromatin Biology

Remodeling the genome with DNA twists

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Science  04 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6461, pp. 35-36
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay4317

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Summary

In complex organisms such as humans, a single genetic blueprint can give rise to a multitude of different cell types, from nerve to liver to muscle. Such cellular diversity relies on restricting which portions of genomic DNA are accessible and therefore can be read by cellular machinery. Ultimately, access to DNA depends on placement of a repetitive, spool-like structure called the nucleosome, the basic packaging unit of chromosomes. The nucleosome occludes two tight loops of DNA and thus represents a fundamentally repressive element. When and where nucleosomes are positioned can affect complex transcriptional programs, and therefore disruptions in the factors responsible for nucleosome positioning often result in cancers and multisystem developmental diseases. Although the mechanism of shifting nucleosomes along DNA has long proved elusive, a recent flurry of structural, biophysical, and biochemical work has revealed a core mechanistic framework explaining how nucleosomes are actively repositioned throughout the genome.

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