Research Article

DNA loop extrusion by human cohesin

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Science  13 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6471, pp. 1338-1345
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz3418

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Cohesin extrudes DNA loops

DNA is folded into loops in eukaryotic cells by a process that depends on a ring-shaped adenosine triphosphatase complex called cohesin. Davidson et al. and Kim et al. now show that in the presence of the NIPBLMAU2 protein complex, the human cohesin complex can function as a molecular motor that extrudes DNA loops with high speed in vitro. In contrast to how it mediates sister chromatid cohesion, cohesin does not appear to entrap DNA topologically during loop extrusion. The results provide direct evidence for the loop extrusion model of chromatin organization and suggest that genome architecture is highly dynamic.

Science, this issue p. 1338, p. 1345


Eukaryotic genomes are folded into loops and topologically associating domains, which contribute to chromatin structure, gene regulation, and gene recombination. These structures depend on cohesin, a ring-shaped DNA-entrapping adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) complex that has been proposed to form loops by extrusion. Such an activity has been observed for condensin, which forms loops in mitosis, but not for cohesin. Using biochemical reconstitution, we found that single human cohesin complexes form DNA loops symmetrically at rates up to 2.1 kilo–base pairs per second. Loop formation and maintenance depend on cohesin’s ATPase activity and on NIPBL-MAU2, but not on topological entrapment of DNA by cohesin. During loop formation, cohesin and NIPBL-MAU2 reside at the base of loops, which indicates that they generate loops by extrusion. Our results show that cohesin and NIPBL-MAU2 form an active holoenzyme that interacts with DNA either pseudo-topologically or non-topologically to extrude genomic interphase DNA into loops.

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