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1.  The Transcriptional Regulator CBP Has Defined Spatial Associations within Interphase Nuclei 
PLoS Computational Biology  2006;2(10):e139.
It is becoming increasingly clear that nuclear macromolecules and macromolecular complexes are compartmentalized through binding interactions into an apparent three-dimensionally ordered structure. This ordering, however, does not appear to be deterministic to the extent that chromatin and nonchromatin structures maintain a strict 3-D arrangement. Rather, spatial ordering within the cell nucleus appears to conform to stochastic rather than deterministic spatial relationships. The stochastic nature of organization becomes particularly problematic when any attempt is made to describe the spatial relationship between proteins involved in the regulation of the genome. The CREB–binding protein (CBP) is one such transcriptional regulator that, when visualised by confocal microscopy, reveals a highly punctate staining pattern comprising several hundred individual foci distributed within the nuclear volume. Markers for euchromatic sequences have similar patterns. Surprisingly, in most cases, the predicted one-to-one relationship between transcription factor and chromatin sequence is not observed. Consequently, to understand whether spatial relationships that are not coincident are nonrandom and potentially biologically important, it is necessary to develop statistical approaches. In this study, we report on the development of such an approach and apply it to understanding the role of CBP in mediating chromatin modification and transcriptional regulation. We have used nearest-neighbor distance measurements and probability analyses to study the spatial relationship between CBP and other nuclear subcompartments enriched in transcription factors, chromatin, and splicing factors. Our results demonstrate that CBP has an order of spatial association with other nuclear subcompartments. We observe closer associations between CBP and RNA polymerase II–enriched foci and SC35 speckles than nascent RNA or specific acetylated histones. Furthermore, we find that CBP has a significantly higher probability of being close to its known in vivo substrate histone H4 lysine 5 compared with the closely related H4 lysine 12. This study demonstrates that complex relationships not described by colocalization exist in the interphase nucleus and can be characterized and quantified. The subnuclear distribution of CBP is difficult to reconcile with a model where chromatin organization is the sole determinant of the nuclear organization of proteins that regulate transcription but is consistent with a close link between spatial associations and nuclear functions.
The cell nucleus is the part of the cell that houses the genome and the associated machinery that are responsible for its duplication, maintenance, and expression. It has become apparent that the individual chromosomes that comprise the genome and the machinery that act on the genome and its RNA products are organized within the nuclear volume. The nature of this organization has been difficult to define because simple mapping has shown that it is not defined by predefined 3-D locations for each component. In this study, McManus and colleagues have developed a statistical tool to facilitate the characterization of spatial relationships, their relationship between organization and function, and the identification of rules defining these relationships. With the specific example of the CREB–binding protein, the authors have used this new statistical tool to determine how the organization of the CREB–binding protein relates to the varying protein–protein complexes, catalytic activity, and functions of the protein. Their results demonstrate that this statistical approach can identify spatial relationships that cannot be defined by the more simple techniques employed to date and can open the door for determining the rules of nuclear organization.
PMCID: PMC1617132  PMID: 17054391
2.  Progressive Polycomb Assembly on H3K27me3 Compartments Generates Polycomb Bodies with Developmentally Regulated Motion 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(1):e1002465.
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are conserved chromatin factors that maintain silencing of key developmental genes outside of their expression domains. Recent genome-wide analyses showed a Polycomb (PC) distribution with binding to discrete PcG response elements (PREs). Within the cell nucleus, PcG proteins localize in structures called PC bodies that contain PcG-silenced genes, and it has been recently shown that PREs form local and long-range spatial networks. Here, we studied the nuclear distribution of two PcG proteins, PC and Polyhomeotic (PH). Thanks to a combination of immunostaining, immuno-FISH, and live imaging of GFP fusion proteins, we could analyze the formation and the mobility of PC bodies during fly embryogenesis as well as compare their behavior to that of the condensed fraction of euchromatin. Immuno-FISH experiments show that PC bodies mainly correspond to 3D structural counterparts of the linear genomic domains identified in genome-wide studies. During early embryogenesis, PC and PH progressively accumulate within PC bodies, which form nuclear structures localized on distinct euchromatin domains containing histone H3 tri-methylated on K27. Time-lapse analysis indicates that two types of motion influence the displacement of PC bodies and chromatin domains containing H2Av-GFP. First, chromatin domains and PC bodies coordinately undergo long-range motions that may correspond to the movement of whole chromosome territories. Second, each PC body and chromatin domain has its own fast and highly constrained motion. In this motion regime, PC bodies move within volumes slightly larger than those of condensed chromatin domains. Moreover, both types of domains move within volumes much smaller than chromosome territories, strongly restricting their possibility of interaction with other nuclear structures. The fast motion of PC bodies and chromatin domains observed during early embryogenesis strongly decreases in late developmental stages, indicating a possible contribution of chromatin dynamics in the maintenance of stable gene silencing.
Author Summary
The three-dimensional organization of genes and associated proteins is critical for gene regulation. Polycomb group proteins are important developmental regulators controlling the expression of hundreds of genes. They are not homogeneously distributed in the cell nucleus, instead forming nuclear subcompartments called Polycomb bodies. We investigated the dynamics of Polycomb bodies during Drosophila embryonic development, demonstrating that two Polycomb proteins, Polycomb and Polyhomeotic, gradually assemble onto bodies enriched in histone H3 trimethylated on lysine 27, a hallmark of Polycomb silencing. Polycomb bodies are not the most condensed euchromatic part of the genome. Instead, a large amount of genomic chromatin is organized in a histone- and DNA–dense structure distinct from Polycomb bodies. Polycomb bodies move, meet, and split dynamically during development. Their motion has two regimes: a fast, highly constrained motion and a slower regime where multiple bodies undergo long-range coordinated movements potentially corresponding to chromosome territory movements. These regimes are not restricted to Polycomb but also extend to bulk “condensed euchromatin,” which is characterized by slower motion and a narrower radius of confinement. Both motion regimes progressively slow down during development, suggesting that regulation of chromatin dynamics may play an important role in the maintenance of gene silencing in differentiated cells.
PMCID: PMC3262012  PMID: 22275876
3.  Coordinate Gene Regulation during Hematopoiesis Is Related to Genomic Organization 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(11):e309.
Gene loci are found in nuclear subcompartments that are related to their expression status. For instance, silent genes are often localized to heterochromatin and the nuclear periphery, whereas active genes tend to be found in the nuclear center. Evidence also suggests that chromosomes may be specifically positioned within the nucleus; however, the nature of this organization and how it is achieved are not yet fully understood. To examine whether gene regulation is related to a discernible pattern of genomic organization, we analyzed the linear arrangement of co-regulated genes along chromosomes and determined the organization of chromosomes during the differentiation of a hematopoietic progenitor to erythroid and neutrophil cell types. Our analysis reveals that there is a significant tendency for co-regulated genes to be proximal, which is related to the association of homologous chromosomes and the spatial juxtaposition of lineage-specific gene domains. We suggest that proximity in the form of chromosomal gene distribution and homolog association may be the basis for organizing the genome for coordinate gene regulation during cellular differentiation.
Author Summary
How are genomes—and the chromosomes that comprise them—organized in the eukaryotic nucleus? This long-standing question in cell biology has gained renewed interest due to observations that gene regulation is correlated with the nonrandom distribution of gene loci linearly along chromosomes and spatially within the nucleus. We have used an in vitro model of cellular differentiation to test the hypothesis that there is an inherent organization of the genome related to coordinate gene regulation. Our analysis reveals that during the differentiation of a murine hematopoietic (blood-forming cell) progenitor to derived cell types, co-regulated genes have a marked tendency to be proximal along chromosomes in the form of clusters (of two and three genes) and large-scale domains. Overall gene expression is also spatially proximal, with a pronounced concentration in the nuclear center. The chromosomes themselves parallel this organization of gene activity, with chromosome territories localizing primarily in the interior of the nucleus. Surprisingly, we found that homologous chromosomes have a tendency to be associated, the extent of which is related to the number of co-regulated genes residing on the particular chromosome. Furthermore, individual gene domains display lineage-specific proximity according to their co-regulation. Our study supports the idea that the eukaryotic nucleus is broadly organized—with proximity playing a key role—to facilitate coordinated gene regulation during cellular differentiation.
Coordinate gene regulation is required for cellular differentiation. Is the genome nonrandomly organized to accomplish this?
PMCID: PMC2080650  PMID: 18031200
4.  Transcription Sites Are Developmentally Regulated during the Asexual Cycle of Plasmodium falciparum 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55539.
Increasing evidence shows that the spatial organization of transcription is an important epigenetic factor in eukaryotic gene regulation. The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum shows a remarkably complex pattern of gene expression during the erythrocytic cycle, paradoxically contrasting with the relatively low number of putative transcription factors encoded by its genome. The spatial organization of nuclear subcompartments has been correlated with the regulation of virulence genes. Here, we investigate the nuclear architecture of transcription during the asexual cycle of malaria parasites. As in mammals, transcription is organized into discrete nucleoplasmic sites in P. falciparum, but in a strikingly lower number of foci. An automated analysis of 3D images shows that the number and intensity of transcription sites vary significantly between rings and trophozoites, although the nuclear volume remains constant. Transcription sites are spatially reorganized during the asexual cycle, with a higher proportion of foci located in the outermost nuclear region in rings, whereas in trophozoites, foci are evenly distributed throughout the nucleoplasm. As in higher eukaryotes, transcription sites are predominantly found in areas of low chromatin density. Immunofluorescence analysis shows that transcription sites form an exclusive nuclear compartment, different from the compartments defined by the silenced or active chromatin markers. In conclusion, these data suggest that transcription is spatially contained in discrete foci that are developmentally regulated during the asexual cycle of malaria parasites and located in areas of low chromatin density.
PMCID: PMC3567098  PMID: 23408998
5.  Genome-Wide Analysis of Histidine Repeats Reveals Their Role in the Localization of Human Proteins to the Nuclear Speckles Compartment 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000397.
Single amino acid repeats are prevalent in eukaryote organisms, although the role of many such sequences is still poorly understood. We have performed a comprehensive analysis of the proteins containing homopolymeric histidine tracts in the human genome and identified 86 human proteins that contain stretches of five or more histidines. Most of them are endowed with DNA- and RNA-related functions, and, in addition, there is an overrepresentation of proteins expressed in the brain and/or nervous system development. An analysis of their subcellular localization shows that 15 of the 22 nuclear proteins identified accumulate in the nuclear subcompartment known as nuclear speckles. This localization is lost when the histidine repeat is deleted, and significantly, closely related paralogous proteins without histidine repeats also fail to localize to nuclear speckles. Hence, the histidine tract appears to be directly involved in targeting proteins to this compartment. The removal of DNA-binding domains or treatment with RNA polymerase II inhibitors induces the re-localization of several polyhistidine-containing proteins from the nucleoplasm to nuclear speckles. These findings highlight the dynamic relationship between sites of transcription and nuclear speckles. Therefore, we define the histidine repeats as a novel targeting signal for nuclear speckles, and we suggest that these repeats are a way of generating evolutionary diversification in gene duplicates. These data contribute to our better understanding of the physiological role of single amino acid repeats in proteins.
Author Summary
Single amino acid repeats are common in eukaryotic proteins. Some of them are associated with developmental and neurodegenerative disorders in humans, suggesting that they play important functions. However, the role of many of these repeats is unknown. Here, we have studied histidine repeats from a bioinformatics as well as a functional point of view. We found that only 86 proteins in the human genome contain stretches of five or more histidines, and that most of these proteins have functions related with RNA synthesis. When studying where these proteins localize in the cell, we found that a significant proportion accumulate in a subnuclear organelle known as nuclear speckles, via the histidine repeat. This is a structure where proteins related to the synthesis and processing of RNA accumulate. In some cases, the localization is transient and depends on the transcriptional requirements of the cell. Our findings are important because they identify a common cellular function for stretches of histidine residues, and they support the notion that histidine repeats contribute to generate evolutionary diversification. Finally, and considering that some of the proteins with histidine stretches are key elements in essential developmental processes, variation in these repeats would be expected to contribute to human disease.
PMCID: PMC2644819  PMID: 19266028
6.  Genetic Analysis of Nuclear Bodies: From Nondeterministic Chaos to Deterministic Order 
The eukaryotic nucleus is a congested place, and macromolecular crowding is thought to play an important role in increasing the relative concentrations of nuclear proteins, thereby accelerating the rates of biochemical reactions. Crowding is also thought to provide the environment needed for formation of nuclear bodies/subcompartments, such as the Cajal Body (CB) and the Histone Locus Body (HLB), via self-organization. In this chapter, we contrast the theories of stochastic self-organization and hierarchical self-organization in their application to nuclear body assembly, using CBs and HLBs as paradigms. Genetic ablation studies in Drosophila on components of CBs and HLBs, have revealed an order to the assembly of these structures that is suggestive of a hierarchical model of self-organization. These studies also show that function(s) attributed to the nuclear bodies are largely unaffected in their absence, reinforcing an emerging theme in the field that the purpose of these subdomains may be to enhance the efficiency and specificity of reactions.
PMCID: PMC4062921  PMID: 21467138
7.  Whole-genome screening identifies proteins localized to distinct nuclear bodies 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;203(1):149-164.
A genome-wide microscopy screen identifies proteins localized to Cajal bodies, paraspeckles, and other known and previously uncharacterized nuclear subcompartments.
The nucleus is a unique organelle that contains essential genetic materials in chromosome territories. The interchromatin space is composed of nuclear subcompartments, which are defined by several distinctive nuclear bodies believed to be factories of DNA or RNA processing and sites of transcriptional and/or posttranscriptional regulation. In this paper, we performed a genome-wide microscopy-based screening for proteins that form nuclear foci and characterized their localizations using markers of known nuclear bodies. In total, we identified 325 proteins localized to distinct nuclear bodies, including nucleoli (148), promyelocytic leukemia nuclear bodies (38), nuclear speckles (27), paraspeckles (24), Cajal bodies (17), Sam68 nuclear bodies (5), Polycomb bodies (2), and uncharacterized nuclear bodies (64). Functional validation revealed several proteins potentially involved in the assembly of Cajal bodies and paraspeckles. Together, these data establish the first atlas of human proteins in different nuclear bodies and provide key information for research on nuclear bodies.
PMCID: PMC3798253  PMID: 24127217
8.  On emerging nuclear order 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;192(5):711-721.
Although the nonrandom nature of interphase chromosome arrangement is widely accepted, how nuclear organization relates to genomic function remains unclear. Nuclear subcompartments may play a role by offering rich microenvironments that regulate chromatin state and ensure optimal transcriptional efficiency. Technological advances now provide genome-wide and four-dimensional analyses, permitting global characterizations of nuclear order. These approaches will help uncover how seemingly separate nuclear processes may be coupled and aid in the effort to understand the role of nuclear organization in development and disease.
PMCID: PMC3051810  PMID: 21383074
9.  Probing Intranuclear Environments at the Single-Molecule Level 
Biophysical Journal  2007;94(7):2847-2858.
Genome activity and nuclear metabolism clearly depend on accessibility, but it is not known whether and to what extent nuclear structures limit the mobility and access of individual molecules. We used fluorescently labeled streptavidin with a nuclear localization signal as an average-sized, inert protein to probe the nuclear environment. The protein was injected into the cytoplasm of mouse cells, and single molecules were tracked in the nucleus with high-speed fluorescence microscopy. We analyzed and compared the mobility of single streptavidin molecules in structurally and functionally distinct nuclear compartments of living cells. Our results indicated that all nuclear subcompartments were easily and similarly accessible for such an average-sized protein, and even condensed heterochromatin neither excluded single molecules nor impeded their passage. The only significant difference was a higher frequency of transient trappings in heterochromatin, which lasted only tens of milliseconds. The streptavidin molecules, however, did not accumulate in heterochromatin, suggesting comparatively less free volume. Interestingly, the nucleolus seemed to exclude streptavidin, as it did many other nuclear proteins, when visualized by conventional fluorescence microscopy. The tracking of single molecules, nonetheless, showed no evidence for repulsion at the border but relatively unimpeded passage through the nucleolus. These results clearly show that single-molecule tracking can provide novel insights into mobility of proteins in the nucleus that cannot be obtained by conventional fluorescence microscopy. Our results suggest that nuclear processes may not be regulated at the level of physical accessibility but rather by local concentration of reactants and availability of binding sites.
PMCID: PMC2267134  PMID: 18065482
10.  Programmed fluctuations in sense/antisense transcript ratios drive sexual differentiation in S. pombe 
Strand-specific RNA sequencing of S. pombe reveals a highly structured programme of ncRNA expression at over 600 loci. Functional investigations show that this extensive ncRNA landscape controls the complex programme of sexual differentiation in S. pombe.
The model eukaryote S. pombe features substantial numbers of ncRNAs many of which are antisense regulatory transcripts (ARTs), ncRNAs expressed on the opposing strand to coding sequences.Individual ARTs are generated during the mitotic cycle, or at discrete stages of sexual differentiation to downregulate the levels of proteins that drive and coordinate sexual differentiation.Antisense transcription occurring from events such as bidirectional transcription is not simply artefactual ‘chatter', it performs a critical role in regulating gene expression.
Regulation of the RNA profile is a principal control driving sexual differentiation in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Before transcription, RNAi-mediated formation of heterochromatin is used to suppress expression, while post-transcription, regulation is achieved via the active stabilisation or destruction of transcripts, and through at least two distinct types of splicing control (Mata et al, 2002; Shimoseki and Shimoda, 2001; Averbeck et al, 2005; Mata and Bähler, 2006; Xue-Franzen et al, 2006; Moldon et al, 2008; Djupedal et al, 2009; Amorim et al, 2010; Grewal, 2010; Cremona et al, 2011).
Around 94% of the S. pombe genome is transcribed (Wilhelm et al, 2008). While many of these transcripts encode proteins (Wood et al, 2002; Bitton et al, 2011), the majority have no known function. We used a strand-specific protocol to sequence total RNA extracts taken from vegetatively growing cells, and at different points during a time course of sexual differentiation. The resulting data redefined existing gene coordinates and identified additional transcribed loci. The frequency of reads at each of these was used to monitor transcript abundance.
Transcript levels at 6599 loci changed in at least one sample (G-statistic; False Discovery Rate <5%). 4231 (72.3%), of which 4011 map to protein-coding genes, while 809 loci were antisense to a known gene. Comparisons between haploid and diploid strains identified changes in transcript levels at over 1000 loci.
At 354 loci, greater antisense abundance was observed relative to sense, in at least one sample (putative antisense regulatory transcripts—ARTs). Since antisense mechanisms are known to modulate sense transcript expression through a variety of inhibitory mechanisms (Faghihi and Wahlestedt, 2009), we postulated that the waves of antisense expression activated at different stages during meiosis might be regulating protein expression.
To ask whether transcription factors that drive sense-transcript levels influenced ART production, we performed RNA-seq of a pat1.114 diploid meiosis in the absence of the transcription factors Atf21 and Atf31 (responsible for late meiotic transcription; Mata et al, 2002). Transcript levels at 185 ncRNA loci showed significant changes in the knockout backgrounds. Although meiotic progression is largely unaffected by removal of Atf21 and Atf31, viability of the resulting spores was significantly diminished, indicating that Atf21- and Atf31-mediated events are critical to efficient sexual differentiation.
If changes to relative antisense/sense transcript levels during a particular phase of sexual differentiation were to regulate protein expression, then the continued presence of the antisense at points in the differentiation programme where it would normally be absent should abolish protein function during this phase. We tested this hypothesis at four loci representing the three means of antisense production: convergent gene expression, improper termination and nascent transcription from an independent locus. Induction of the natural antisense transcripts that opposed spo4+, spo6+ and dis1+ (Figures 3 and 7) in trans from a heterologous locus phenocopied a loss of function of the target protein. ART overexpression decreased Dis1 protein levels. Antisense transcription opposing spk1+ originated from improper termination of the sense ups1+ transcript on the opposite strand (Figure 3B, left locus). Expression of either the natural full-length ups1+ transcript or a truncated version, restricted to the portion of ups1+ overlapping spk1+ (Figure 3, orange transcripts) in trans from a heterologous locus phenocopied the spk1.Δ differentiation deficiency. Convergent transcription from a neighbouring gene on the opposing strand is, therefore, an effective mechanism to generate RNAi-mediated (below) silencing in fission yeast. Further analysis of the data revealed, for many loci, substantial changes in UTR length over the course of meiosis, suggesting that UTR dynamics may have an active role in regulating gene expression by controlling the transcriptional overlap between convergent adjacent gene pairs.
The RNAi machinery (Grewal, 2010) was required for antisense suppression at each of the dis1, spk1, spo4 and spo6 loci, as antisense to each locus had no impact in ago1.Δ, dcr1.Δ and rdp1.Δ backgrounds. We conclude that RNAi control has a key role in maintaining the fidelity of sexual differentiation in fission yeast. The histone H3 methyl transferase Clr4 was required for antisense control from a heterologous locus.
Thus, a significant portion of the impact of ncRNA upon sexual differentiation arises from antisense gene silencing. Importantly, in contrast to the extensively characterised ability of the RNAi machinery to operate in cis at a target locus in S. pombe (Grewal, 2010), each case of gene silencing generated here could be achieved in trans by expression of the antisense transcript from a single heterologous locus elsewhere in the genome.
Integration of an antibiotic marker gene immediately downstream of the dis1+ locus instigated antisense control in an orientation-dependent manner. PCR-based gene tagging approaches are widely used to fuse the coding sequences of epitope or protein tags to a gene of interest. Not only do these tagging approaches disrupt normal 3′UTR controls, but the insertion of a heterologous marker gene immediately downstream of an ORF can clearly have a significant impact upon transcriptional control of the resulting fusion protein. Thus, PCR tagging approaches can no longer be viewed as benign manipulations of a locus that only result in the production of a tagged protein product.
Repression of Dis1 function by gene deletion or antisense control revealed a key role this conserved microtubule regulator in driving the horsetail nuclear migrations that promote recombination during meiotic prophase.
Non-coding transcripts have often been viewed as simple ‘chatter', maintained solely because evolutionary pressures have not been strong enough to force their elimination from the system. Our data show that phenomena such as improper termination and bidirectional transcription are not simply interesting artifacts arising from the complexities of transcription or genome history, but have a critical role in regulating gene expression in the current genome. Given the widespread use of RNAi, it is reasonable to anticipate that future analyses will establish ARTs to have equal importance in other organisms, including vertebrates.
These data highlight the need to modify our concept of a gene from that of a spatially distinct locus. This view is becoming increasingly untenable. Not only are the 5′ and 3′ ends of many genes indistinct, but that this lack of a hard and fast boundary is actively used by cells to control the transcription of adjacent and overlapping loci, and thus to regulate critical events in the life of a cell.
Strand-specific RNA sequencing of S. pombe revealed a highly structured programme of ncRNA expression at over 600 loci. Waves of antisense transcription accompanied sexual differentiation. A substantial proportion of ncRNA arose from mechanisms previously considered to be largely artefactual, including improper 3′ termination and bidirectional transcription. Constitutive induction of the entire spk1+, spo4+, dis1+ and spo6+ antisense transcripts from an integrated, ectopic, locus disrupted their respective meiotic functions. This ability of antisense transcripts to disrupt gene function when expressed in trans suggests that cis production at native loci during sexual differentiation may also control gene function. Consistently, insertion of a marker gene adjacent to the dis1+ antisense start site mimicked ectopic antisense expression in reducing the levels of this microtubule regulator and abolishing the microtubule-dependent ‘horsetail' stage of meiosis. Antisense production had no impact at any of these loci when the RNA interference (RNAi) machinery was removed. Thus, far from being simply ‘genome chatter', this extensive ncRNA landscape constitutes a fundamental component in the controls that drive the complex programme of sexual differentiation in S. pombe.
PMCID: PMC3738847  PMID: 22186733
antisense; meiosis; ncRNA; S. pombe; siRNA
11.  Condensin II Promotes the Formation of Chromosome Territories by Inducing Axial Compaction of Polyploid Interphase Chromosomes 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(8):e1002873.
The eukaryotic nucleus is both spatially and functionally partitioned. This organization contributes to the maintenance, expression, and transmission of genetic information. Though our ability to probe the physical structure of the genome within the nucleus has improved substantially in recent years, relatively little is known about the factors that regulate its organization or the mechanisms through which specific organizational states are achieved. Here, we show that Drosophila melanogaster Condensin II induces axial compaction of interphase chromosomes, globally disrupts interchromosomal interactions, and promotes the dispersal of peri-centric heterochromatin. These Condensin II activities compartmentalize the nucleus into discrete chromosome territories and indicate commonalities in the mechanisms that regulate the spatial structure of the genome during mitosis and interphase.
Author Summary
A number of recent studies have debunked the idea that chromosomes exist as a tangled mass of chromatin fibers within the nucleus. In many organisms, including mammals, each chromosome occupies a specific region of the nucleus known as a chromosome territory. This organization has implications for many biological processes such as chromosomal rearrangements that are common in cancer and the interactions between sub-nuclear structures that control how genes are expressed. Despite this, little is known about the genes or mechanisms that are responsible for creating or maintaining chromosome territories. Here, we show that the Condensin II complex can induce the formation of chromosome territories in fruit flies. We propose that this activity stems from the ability of Condensin II to reduce the length of chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3431300  PMID: 22956908
12.  A Three-Dimensional Model of the Yeast Genome 
Nature  2010;465(7296):363-367.
Layered on top of information conveyed by DNA sequence and chromatin are higher order structures that encompass portions of chromosomes, entire chromosomes, and even whole genomes1-3. Interphase chromosomes are not positioned randomly within the nucleus but instead adopt preferred conformations4-7. Disparate DNA elements co-localize into functionally defined aggregates or “factories” for transcription8 and DNA replication9. In budding yeast, Drosophila and many other eukaryotes, chromosomes adopt a Rabl configuration, with arms extending from centromeres adjacent to the spindle pole body to telomeres that abut the nuclear envelope10-12. Nonetheless, the topologies and spatial relationships of chromosomes remain poorly understood. Here we developed a method to globally capture intra- and inter-chromosomal interactions, and applied it to generate a map at kilobase resolution of the haploid genome of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The map recapitulates known features of genome organization, thereby validating the method, and identifies new features. Extensive regional and higher order folding of individual chromosomes is observed. Chromosome XII exhibits a striking conformation that implicates the nucleolus as a formidable barrier to interaction between DNA sequences at either end. Inter-chromosomal contacts are anchored by centromeres and include interactions among tRNA genes, among origins of early DNA replication and among sites where chromosomal breakpoints occur. Finally, we constructed a three-dimensional model of the yeast genome. Our findings provide a glimpse of the interface between the form and function of a eukaryotic genome.
PMCID: PMC2874121  PMID: 20436457
13.  Parvovirus Induced Alterations in Nuclear Architecture and Dynamics 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5948.
The nucleus of interphase eukaryotic cell is a highly compartmentalized structure containing the three-dimensional network of chromatin and numerous proteinaceous subcompartments. DNA viruses induce profound changes in the intranuclear structures of their host cells. We are applying a combination of confocal imaging including photobleaching microscopy and computational methods to analyze the modifications of nuclear architecture and dynamics in parvovirus infected cells. Upon canine parvovirus infection, expansion of the viral replication compartment is accompanied by chromatin marginalization to the vicinity of the nuclear membrane. Dextran microinjection and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) studies revealed the homogeneity of this compartment. Markedly, in spite of increase in viral DNA content of the nucleus, a significant increase in the protein mobility was observed in infected compared to non-infected cells. Moreover, analyzis of the dynamics of photoactivable capsid protein demonstrated rapid intranuclear dynamics of viral capsids. Finally, quantitative FRAP and cellular modelling were used to determine the duration of viral genome replication. Altogether, our findings indicate that parvoviruses modify the nuclear structure and dynamics extensively. Intranuclear crowding of viral components leads to enlargement of the interchromosomal domain and to chromatin marginalization via depletion attraction. In conclusion, parvoviruses provide a useful model system for understanding the mechanisms of virus-induced intranuclear modifications.
PMCID: PMC2694274  PMID: 19536327
14.  Scaffold nucleoporins Nup188 and Nup192 share structural and functional properties with nuclear transport receptors 
eLife  2013;2:e00745.
Nucleocytoplasmic transport is mediated by nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) embedded in the nuclear envelope. About 30 different proteins (nucleoporins, nups) arrange around a central eightfold rotational axis to build the modular NPC. Nup188 and Nup192 are related and evolutionary conserved, large nucleoporins that are part of the NPC scaffold. Here we determine the structure of Nup188. The protein folds into an extended stack of helices where an N-terminal 130 kDa segment forms an intricate closed ring, while the C-terminal region is a more regular, superhelical structure. Overall, the structure has distant similarity with flexible S-shaped nuclear transport receptors (NTRs). Intriguingly, like NTRs, both Nup188 and Nup192 specifically bind FG-repeats and are able to translocate through NPCs by facilitated diffusion. This blurs the existing dogma of a clear distinction between stationary nups and soluble NTRs and suggests an evolutionary relationship between the NPC and the soluble nuclear transport machinery.
eLife digest
The nucleus of a cell is surrounded by a two-layered membrane that controls the flow of molecules from the cytoplasm into the nucleus and vice versa. The molecular traffic between the cytoplasm and nucleus is essentially controlled by nuclear pore complexes—large, multi-protein structures that are embedded in the membrane. Each nuclear pore complex contains about 30 different proteins called nucleoporins or nups, which combine to form a structure with a central pore that allows the molecules to enter and leave the nucleus.
The centre of the nuclear pore complex is thought to be filled with protein filaments that contain a large number of so-called FG repeats (where F and G are the amino acids phenylalanine and glycine). Specialized molecules called soluble nuclear transport receptors, which carry various cargoes between the cytoplasm and nucleus, can bind to these FG repeats, and the interaction between the receptors and the FG repeats is crucial for the selective transport of molecules between the cytoplasm and the nucleus.
The large size of the nuclear pore complex has hindered efforts to work out its structure, but in recent years researchers have been able to obtain structures for many individual nups and their subcomplexes. Now, Andersen et al. have determined the structure of one of the largest nups, Nup188. This has led to the discovery that it and a related nup, Nup192, share unexpected features with soluble nuclear transport receptors.
In general the first step when attempting to determine the structure of a biomolecule is to form a crystal. Since full-length Nup188 did not crystallize, Andersen et al. instead crystallized two large fragments of Nup188, determined the structures of these fragments, and then combined these to produce the likely structure of the full-length protein. They found that Nup188 has a structure that consists of stacked helices and is more flexible than other nups. Moreover, its structure was very similar to those of soluble nuclear transport receptors, and this led Andersen et al. to investigate whether Nup188 also had similar functional features.
Surprisingly, they discovered that both Nup188 and Nup192 could bind FG repeats, just like nuclear transport receptors. What is more, this binding allowed both nups to travel through nuclear pore complexes in in vitro transport reactions. These findings have implications for the understanding of the organization and function of FG-repeats and suggest that the stationary elements of the nuclear pore complex and soluble nuclear transport receptors are evolutionarily related.
PMCID: PMC3679522  PMID: 23795296
nucleocytoplasmic transport; macromolecular assemblages; Myceliophthora thermophila; S. cerevisiae; Myceliophthora thermophila
15.  Visualization of the spatial positioning of the SNRPN, UBE3A, and GABRB3 genes in the normal human nucleus by three-color 3D fluorescence in situ hybridization 
Chromosome Research  2012;20(6):659-672.
The three-dimensional (3D) structure of the genome is organized non-randomly and plays a role in genomic function via epigenetic mechanisms in the eukaryotic nucleus. Here, we analyzed the spatial positioning of three target regions; the SNRPN, UBE3A, and GABRB3 genes on human chromosome 15q11.2–q12, a representative cluster of imprinted regions, in the interphase nuclei of B lymphoblastoid cell lines, peripheral blood cells, and skin fibroblasts derived from normal individuals to look for evidence of genomic organization and function. The positions of these genes were simultaneously visualized, and all inter-gene distances were calculated for each homologous chromosome in each nucleus after three-color 3D fluorescence in situ hybridization. None of the target genes were arranged linearly in most cells analyzed, and GABRB3 was positioned closer to SNRPN than UBE3A in a high proportion of cells in all cell types. This was in contrast to the genomic map in which GABRB3 was positioned closer to UBE3A than SNRPN. We compared the distances from SNRPN to UBE3A (SU) and from UBE3A to GABRB3 (UG) between alleles in each nucleus, 50 cells per subject. The results revealed that the gene-to-gene distance of one allele was longer than that of the other and that the SU ratio (longer/shorter SU distance between alleles) was larger than the UG ratio (longer/shorter UG distance between alleles). The UG distance was relatively stable between alleles; in contrast, the SU distance of one allele was obviously longer than the distance indicated by the genome size. The results therefore indicate that SNRPN, UBE3A, and GABRB3 have non-linear and non-random curved spatial positioning in the normal nucleus, with differences in the SU distance between alleles possibly representing epigenetic evidence of nuclear organization and gene expression.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10577-012-9300-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3481056  PMID: 22801776
Genome organization; Spatial positioning; 3D-FISH; SNRPN; Chromatin; Epigenetic
16.  Nuclear Pore Proteins Nup153 and Megator Define Transcriptionally Active Regions in the Drosophila Genome 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000846.
Transcriptional regulation is one of the most important processes for modulating gene expression. Though much of this control is attributed to transcription factors, histones, and associated enzymes, it is increasingly apparent that the spatial organization of chromosomes within the nucleus has a profound effect on transcriptional activity. Studies in yeast indicate that the nuclear pore complex might promote transcription by recruiting chromatin to the nuclear periphery. In higher eukaryotes, however, it is not known whether such regulation has global significance. Here we establish nucleoporins as a major class of global regulators for gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster. Using chromatin-immunoprecipitation combined with microarray hybridisation, we show that Nup153 and Megator (Mtor) bind to 25% of the genome in continuous domains extending 10 kb to 500 kb. These Nucleoporin-Associated Regions (NARs) are dominated by markers for active transcription, including high RNA polymerase II occupancy and histone H4K16 acetylation. RNAi–mediated knock-down of Nup153 alters the expression of ∼5,700 genes, with a pronounced down-regulatory effect within NARs. We find that nucleoporins play a central role in coordinating dosage compensation—an organism-wide process involving the doubling of expression of the male X chromosome. NARs are enriched on the male X chromosome and occupy 75% of this chromosome. Furthermore, Nup153-depletion abolishes the normal function of the male-specific dosage compensation complex. Finally, by extensive 3D imaging, we demonstrate that NARs contribute to gene expression control irrespective of their sub-nuclear localization. Therefore, we suggest that NAR–binding is used for chromosomal organization that enables gene expression control.
Author Summary
The eukaryotic genome is spatially distributed in a highly organized manner, with chromosomal regions localizing to well-defined sub-nuclear positions. This organization could have a profound effect on chromatin accessibility and transcriptional activity on a genome-wide level. Using high-resolution, genome-wide, chromatin-binding profiles we show that the nuclear pore components Nup153 and Megator bind to quarter of the Drosophila genome in form of chromosomal domains. These domains represent active regions of the genome. Interestingly, comparison of male and female cells revealed enrichment of these domains on the male X chromosome, which represents an exceptionally active chromosome that is under dosage compensation control to equalize gene expression due to differences in X chromosome number between males and females. Based on extensive 3D image analysis, we show that these chromosomal domains are contributed by both peripheral as well as intranuclear pool of these proteins. We suggest that chromosomal organization by nucleoporins could contribute to global gene expression control.
PMCID: PMC2820533  PMID: 20174442
17.  Functional ultrastructure of the plant nucleolus 
Protoplasma  2014;251(6):1285-1306.
Nucleoli are nuclear domains present in almost all eukaryotic cells. They not only specialize in the production of ribosomal subunits but also play roles in many fundamental cellular activities. Concerning ribosome biosynthesis, particular stages of this process, i.e., ribosomal DNA transcription, primary RNA transcript processing, and ribosome assembly proceed in precisely defined nucleolar subdomains. Although eukaryotic nucleoli are conservative in respect of their main function, clear morphological differences between these structures can be noticed between individual kingdoms. In most cases, a plant nucleolus shows well-ordered structure in which four main ultrastructural components can be distinguished: fibrillar centers, dense fibrillar component, granular component, and nucleolar vacuoles. Nucleolar chromatin is an additional crucial structural component of this organelle. Nucleolonema, although it is not always an unequivocally distinguished nucleolar domain, has often been described as a well-grounded morphological element, especially of plant nucleoli. The ratios and morphology of particular subcompartments of a nucleolus can change depending on its metabolic activity which in turn is correlated with the physiological state of a cell, cell type, cell cycle phase, as well as with environmental influence. Precise attribution of functions to particular nucleolar subregions in the process of ribosome biosynthesis is now possible using various approaches. The presented description of plant nucleolar morphology summarizes previous knowledge regarding the function of nucleoli as well as of their particular subdomains not only in the course of ribosome biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC4209244  PMID: 24756369
Plant nucleolar ultrastructure; Nucleolar chromatin; Nucleolonema; Ribosome biosynthesis; Nucleolar functions; Nucleolar subcompartments
18.  Evidence for channeled diffusion of pre-mRNAs during nuclear RNA transport in metazoans 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1993;121(4):729-742.
We report studies using an enhanced experimental system to investigate organization of nuclear pre-mRNA metabolism. It is based on the powerful genetic system and polytene nuclei of Drosophila. We observe (at steady state) movement of a specific pre-mRNA between its gene and the nuclear surface. This movement is isotropic, at rates consistent with diffusion and is restricted to a small nuclear subcompartment defined by exclusion from chromosome axes and the nucleolus. Bulk polyadenylated nuclear pre-mRNA precisely localizes in this same subcompartment indicating that most or all pre-mRNAs use the same route of intranuclear movement. In addition to association with nascent transcripts, snRNPs are coconcentrated with pre-mRNA in this subcompartment. In contrast to constitutive splices, at least one regulated splice occurs slowly and may undergo execution remotely from the site of pre-mRNA synthesis. Details of our results suggest that retention of incompletely spliced pre-mRNA is a function of the nuclear surface. We propose a simple model--based on channeled diffusion--for organization of intranuclear transport and metabolism of pre-mRNAs in polytene nuclei. We argue that this model can be generalized to all metazoan nuclei.
PMCID: PMC2119787  PMID: 8491768
19.  Drosophila Functional Elements Are Embedded in Structurally Constrained Sequences 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(5):e1003512.
Modern functional genomics uncovered numerous functional elements in metazoan genomes. Nevertheless, only a small fraction of the typical non-exonic genome contains elements that code for function directly. On the other hand, a much larger fraction of the genome is associated with significant evolutionary constraints, suggesting that much of the non-exonic genome is weakly functional. Here we show that in flies, local (30–70 bp) conserved sequence elements that are associated with multiple regulatory functions serve as focal points to a pattern of punctuated regional increase in G/C nucleotide frequencies. We show that this pattern, which covers a region tenfold larger than the conserved elements themselves, is an evolutionary consequence of a shift in the balance between gain and loss of G/C nucleotides and that it is correlated with nucleosome occupancy across multiple classes of epigenetic state. Evidence for compensatory evolution and analysis of SNP allele frequencies show that the evolutionary regime underlying this balance shift is likely to be non-neutral. These data suggest that current gaps in our understanding of genome function and evolutionary dynamics are explicable by a model of sparse sequence elements directly encoding for function, embedded into structural sequences that help to define the local and global epigenomic context of such functional elements.
Author Summary
A key challenge in functional genomics is to predict evolutionary dynamics from functional annotation of the genome and vice versa. Modern epigenomic studies helped assign function to numerous new sequence elements, but left most of the genome essentially uncharacterized. Evolutionary genomics, on the other hand, consistently suggests that a much larger fraction of the un-annotated genome evolves under selective pressure. We hypothesize that this function-selection gap can be attributed to sequences that facilitate the physical organization of functional elements, such as transcription factor binding sites, within chromosomes. We exemplify this by studying in detail the sequences embedding small conserved elements (CEs) in Drosophila. We show that, while CEs have typically high AT content, high GC content levels around them are maintained by a non-neutral evolutionary balance between gain and loss of GC nucleotides. This non-uniform pattern is highly correlated with nucleosome organization around CEs, potentially imposing an evolutionary constraint on as much as one quarter of the genome. We suggest this can at least partly explain the above function-selection gap. Weak evolutionary constraints on “structural” sequences (at scales ranging from one nucleosome to recently described multi-megabase topological domains) may affect genome evolution just like structural motifs shape protein evolution.
PMCID: PMC3671938  PMID: 23750124
20.  Are Rab Proteins the Link Between Golgi Organization and Membrane Trafficking? 
The fundamental separation of Golgi function between subcompartments termed cisternae is conserved across all eukaryotes. Likewise, Rab proteins, small GTPases of the Ras superfamily, are putative common coordinators of Golgi organization and protein transport. However, despite sequence conservation, e.g., Rab6 and Ypt6 are conserved proteins between humans and yeast, the fundamental organization of the organelle can vary profoundly. In the yeast Sacchromyces cerevisiae, the Golgi cisternae are physically separated from one another while, in mammalian cells, the cisternae are stacked one upon the other. Moreover, in mammalian cells many Golgi stacks are typically linked together to generate a ribbon structure. Do evolutionarily conserved Rab proteins regulate secretory membrane trafficking and diverse Golgi organization in a common manner? In mammalian cells, some Golgi associated Rab proteins function in coordination of protein transport and maintenance of Golgi organization. These include Rab6, Rab33B, Rab1, Rab2, Rab18 and Rab43. In yeast, these include Ypt1, Ypt32 and Ypt6. Here, based on evidence from both yeast and mammalian cells, we speculate on the essential role of Rab proteins in Golgi organization and protein transport.
PMCID: PMC4080914  PMID: 22581368
21.  Nucleolar Association and Transcriptional Inhibition through 5S rDNA in Mammals 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(1):e1002468.
Changes in the spatial positioning of genes within the mammalian nucleus have been associated with transcriptional differences and thus have been hypothesized as a mode of regulation. In particular, the localization of genes to the nuclear and nucleolar peripheries is associated with transcriptional repression. However, the mechanistic basis, including the pertinent cis- elements, for such associations remains largely unknown. Here, we provide evidence that demonstrates a 119 bp 5S rDNA can influence nucleolar association in mammals. We found that integration of transgenes with 5S rDNA significantly increases the association of the host region with the nucleolus, and their degree of association correlates strongly with repression of a linked reporter gene. We further show that this mechanism may be functional in endogenous contexts: pseudogenes derived from 5S rDNA show biased conservation of their internal transcription factor binding sites and, in some cases, are frequently associated with the nucleolus. These results demonstrate that 5S rDNA sequence can significantly contribute to the positioning of a locus and suggest a novel, endogenous mechanism for nuclear organization in mammals.
Author Summary
Eukaryotic genomes are compartmentalized within nuclei such that physiological events, including transcription and DNA replication, can efficiently occur. The mechanisms that regulate this organization represent an exciting, and equally enigmatic, subject of research. In mammals, the identification of elements that influence these associations has been impeded by the complex nature of the genomes. Here, we report the identification and characterization of such an element. We demonstrate that the integration of a 5S rDNA gene, a 119 base pair noncoding RNA transcribed by RNA polymerase III, into a new genomic location can significantly influence the association of the host region with the nucleolus. This positioning has drastic, inhibitory effects on the transcription of a neighboring protein coding gene transcribed by RNA polymerase II, demonstrating a functional relationship between localization and gene expression. We also provide data that suggest this may be an endogenous phenomenon, through a class of repetitive sequences derived from 5S rDNA. Together, our data not only demonstrate a structural role for 5S rDNA but also suggest that nuclear organization of mammalian genomes may be strongly influenced by repetitive sequences.
PMCID: PMC3261910  PMID: 22275877
22.  Chromatin is an ancient innovation conserved between Archaea and Eukarya 
eLife  2012;1:e00078.
The eukaryotic nucleosome is the fundamental unit of chromatin, comprising a protein octamer that wraps ∼147 bp of DNA and has essential roles in DNA compaction, replication and gene expression. Nucleosomes and chromatin have historically been considered to be unique to eukaryotes, yet studies of select archaea have identified homologs of histone proteins that assemble into tetrameric nucleosomes. Here we report the first archaeal genome-wide nucleosome occupancy map, as observed in the halophile Haloferax volcanii. Nucleosome occupancy was compared with gene expression by compiling a comprehensive transcriptome of Hfx. volcanii. We found that archaeal transcripts possess hallmarks of eukaryotic chromatin structure: nucleosome-depleted regions at transcriptional start sites and conserved −1 and +1 promoter nucleosomes. Our observations demonstrate that histones and chromatin architecture evolved before the divergence of Archaea and Eukarya, suggesting that the fundamental role of chromatin in the regulation of gene expression is ancient.
eLife digest
Single-celled microorganisms called archaea are one of the three domains of cellular life, along with bacteria and eukaryotes. Archaea are similar to bacteria in that they do not have nuclei, but genetically they have more in common with eukaryotes. Archaea are found in a wide range of habitats including the human colon, marshlands, the ocean and extreme environments such as hot springs and salt lakes.
It has been known since the 1990s that the DNA of archaea is wrapped around histones to form complexes that closely resemble the nucleosomes found in eukaryotes, albeit with four rather than eight histone subunits. Nucleosomes are the fundamental units of chromatin, the highly-ordered and compact structure that all the DNA in a cell is packed into. Now we know exactly how many nucleosomes are present in a given cell for some eukaryotes, notably yeast, and to a good approximation we know the position of each nucleosome during a variety of metabolic states and physiological conditions. We can also quantify the nucleosome occupancy, which is measure of the length of time that the nucleosomes spend in contact with the DNA: this is a critical piece of information because it determines the level of access that other proteins, including those that regulate gene expression, have to the DNA. These advances have been driven in large part by advances in technology, notably high-density microarrays for genome wide-studies of nucleosome occupancy, and massively parallel sequencing for direct nucleosome sequencing.
Ammar et al. have used these techniques to explore how the DNA of Haloferax volcanii, a species of archaea that thrives in the hyper-salty waters of the Dead Sea, is organized on a genome-wide basis. Despite some clear differences between the genomes of archaea and eukaryotes—for example, genomic DNA is typically circular in archaea and linear in eukaryotes—they found that the genome of Hfx. volcanii is organized into chromatin in a way that is remarkably similar to that seen in all eukaryotic genomes studied to date. This is surprising given that the chromatin in eukaryotes is confined to the nucleus, whereas there are no such constraints in archaea. In particular, Ammar et al. found that those regions of the DNA near the ends of genes that mark where the transcription of the DNA into RNA should begin and end contain have lower nucleosome occupancy than other regions. Moreover, the overall level of occupancy in Hfx. volcanii was twice that of eukaryotes, which is what one would expect given that nucleosomes in archaea contain half as many histone subunits as nucleosomes in eukaryotes. Ammar et al. also confirmed that that the degree of nucleosome occupancy is correlated with gene expression.
These two findings—the similarities between the chromatin in archaea and eukaryotes, and the correlation between nucleosome occupancy and gene expression in archaea—raise an interesting evolutionary possibility: the initial function of nucleosomes and chromatin formation might have been for the regulation of gene expression rather than the packaging of DNA. This is consistent with two decades of research that has shown that there is an extraordinary and complex relationship between the structure of chromatin and the process of gene expression. It is possible, therefore, that as the early eukaryotes evolved, nucleosomes and chromatin started to package DNA into compact structures that, among other things, helped to prevent DNA damage, and that this subsequently enabled the early eukaryotes to flourish.
PMCID: PMC3510453  PMID: 23240084
Haloferax volcanii; Nucleosome; Chromatin; Transcriptome; RNA-seq; Archaea; Other
23.  Statistical Analysis of 3D Images Detects Regular Spatial Distributions of Centromeres and Chromocenters in Animal and Plant Nuclei 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(7):e1000853.
In eukaryotes, the interphase nucleus is organized in morphologically and/or functionally distinct nuclear “compartments”. Numerous studies highlight functional relationships between the spatial organization of the nucleus and gene regulation. This raises the question of whether nuclear organization principles exist and, if so, whether they are identical in the animal and plant kingdoms. We addressed this issue through the investigation of the three-dimensional distribution of the centromeres and chromocenters. We investigated five very diverse populations of interphase nuclei at different differentiation stages in their physiological environment, belonging to rabbit embryos at the 8-cell and blastocyst stages, differentiated rabbit mammary epithelial cells during lactation, and differentiated cells of Arabidopsis thaliana plantlets. We developed new tools based on the processing of confocal images and a new statistical approach based on G- and F- distance functions used in spatial statistics. Our original computational scheme takes into account both size and shape variability by comparing, for each nucleus, the observed distribution against a reference distribution estimated by Monte-Carlo sampling over the same nucleus. This implicit normalization allowed similar data processing and extraction of rules in the five differentiated nuclei populations of the three studied biological systems, despite differences in chromosome number, genome organization and heterochromatin content. We showed that centromeres/chromocenters form significantly more regularly spaced patterns than expected under a completely random situation, suggesting that repulsive constraints or spatial inhomogeneities underlay the spatial organization of heterochromatic compartments. The proposed technique should be useful for identifying further spatial features in a wide range of cell types.
Author Summary
Several reports suggest functional relationships within the spatial organization of the nucleus, gene regulation and cell differentiation. However, it still remains difficult to extract common rules, mostly because i) most data have been gathered on limited sets of nuclear elements and in nuclei outside their normal physiological environment, and ii) few three-dimensional (3D) quantitative measures have been performed. Thus, we questioned whether common nuclear organization principles exist in the animal and plant kingdoms. For that purpose, we investigated the 3D distribution of centromeres/chromocenters in five populations of animal and plant nuclei: rabbit embryos at 8-cell and blastocyst stages, rabbit mammary gland epithelial cells and Arabidopsis thaliana plantlets. We set up adapted procedures to segment confocal images and developed a new analytical methodology based on distances between positions within the nucleus and centromeres/chromocenters. We showed that in all systems, despite large differences in chromosome number (44 in rabbit; 10 in A. thaliana) and genome size (rabbit estimated size 2.77 Gbp; A. thaliana 125 Mbp), centromeres/chromocenters form significantly more regularly spaced patterns than expected under a completely random situation. This suggests that, whatever their specific features, conserved rules govern the spatial distribution of genomes in nuclei of differentiated cells.
PMCID: PMC2900307  PMID: 20628576
24.  Compartments within a compartment 
Organogenesis  2014;10(1):126-137.
The primary cilium has emerged as a hotbed of sensory and developmental signaling, serving as a privileged domain to concentrate the functions of a wide number of channels, receptors and downstream signal transducers. This realization has provided important insight into the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the ciliopathies, an ever expanding spectrum of multi-symptomatic disorders affecting the development and maintenance of multiple tissues and organs. One emerging research focus is the subcompartmentalised nature of the organelle, consisting of discrete structural and functional subdomains such as the periciliary membrane/basal body compartment, the transition zone, the Inv compartment and the distal segment/ciliary tip region. Numerous ciliopathy, transport-related and signaling molecules localize at these compartments, indicating specific roles at these subciliary sites. Here, by focusing predominantly on research from the genetically tractable nematode C. elegans, we review ciliary subcompartments in terms of their structure, function, composition, biogenesis and relationship to human disease.
PMCID: PMC4049889  PMID: 24732235
cilia; ciliopathy; periciliary membrane; basal body; transition zone; inversin compartment; distal segment; ciliary tip; intraflagellar transport; diffusion barrier
25.  Topological Domains in Mammalian Genomes Identified by Analysis of Chromatin Interactions 
Nature  2012;485(7398):376-380.
The spatial organization of the genome is intimately linked to its biological function, yet our understanding of higher order genomic structure is coarse, fragmented and incomplete. In the nucleus of eukaryotic cells, interphase chromosomes occupy distinct chromosome territories (CT), and numerous models have been proposed for how chromosomes fold within CTs1. These models, however, provide only few mechanistic details about the relationship between higher order chromatin structure and genome function. Recent advances in genomic technologies have led to rapid revolutions in the study of 3D genome organization. In particular, Hi-C has been introduced as a method for identifying higher order chromatin interactions genome wide2. In the present study, we investigated the 3D organization of the human and mouse genomes in embryonic stem cells and terminally differentiated cell types at unprecedented resolution. We identify large, megabase-sized local chromatin interaction domains, which we term “topological domains”, as a pervasive structural feature of the genome organization. These domains correlate with regions of the genome that constrain the spread of heterochromatin. The domains are stable across different cell types and highly conserved across species, suggesting that topological domains are an inherent property of mammalian genomes. Lastly, we find that the boundaries of topological domains are enriched for the insulator binding protein CTCF, housekeeping genes, tRNAs, and SINE retrotransposons, suggesting that these factors may play a role in establishing the topological domain structure of the genome.
PMCID: PMC3356448  PMID: 22495300

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