A polymer model explains the complexity of large-scale chromatin folding.
ABSTRACT: The underlying global organization of chromatin within the cell nucleus has been the focus of intense recent research. Hi-C methods have allowed for the detection of genome-wide chromatin interactions, revealing a complex large-scale organization where chromosomes tend to partition into megabase-sized "topological domains" of local chromatin interactions and intra-chromosomal contacts extends over much longer scales, in a cell-type and chromosome specific manner. Until recently, the distinct chromatin folding properties observed experimentally have been difficult to explain in a single conceptual framework. We reported that a simple polymer-physics model of chromatin, the strings and binders switch (SBS) model, succeeds in describing the full range of chromatin configurations observed in vivo. The SBS model simulates the interactions between randomly diffusing binding molecules and binding sites on a polymer chain. It explains how polymer architectural patterns can be established, how different stable conformations can be produced and how conformational changes can be reliably regulated by simple strategies, such as protein upregulation or epigenetic modifications, via fundamental thermodynamics mechanisms.
Project description:Chromatin has a complex spatial organization in the cell nucleus that serves vital functional purposes. A variety of chromatin folding conformations has been detected by single-cell imaging and chromosome conformation capture-based approaches. However, a unified quantitative framework describing spatial chromatin organization is still lacking. Here, we explore the "strings and binders switch" model to explain the origin and variety of chromatin behaviors that coexist and dynamically change within living cells. This simple polymer model recapitulates the scaling properties of chromatin folding reported experimentally in different cellular systems, the fractal state of chromatin, the processes of domain formation, and looping out. Additionally, the strings and binders switch model reproduces the recently proposed "fractal-globule" model, but only as one of many possible transient conformations.
Project description:Mammalian chromosomes fold into arrays of megabase-sized topologically associating domains (TADs), which are arranged into compartments spanning multiple megabases of genomic DNA. TADs have internal substructures that are often cell type specific, but their higher-order organization remains elusive. Here, we investigate TAD higher-order interactions with Hi-C through neuronal differentiation and show that they form a hierarchy of domains-within-domains (metaTADs) extending across genomic scales up to the range of entire chromosomes. We find that TAD interactions are well captured by tree-like, hierarchical structures irrespective of cell type. metaTAD tree structures correlate with genetic, epigenomic and expression features, and structural tree rearrangements during differentiation are linked to transcriptional state changes. Using polymer modelling, we demonstrate that hierarchical folding promotes efficient chromatin packaging without the loss of contact specificity, highlighting a role far beyond the simple need for packing efficiency.
Project description:Mammalian chromosomes fold into arrays of megabase‐sized topologically associating domains (TADs), which are arranged into compartments spanning multiple megabases of genomic DNA. TADs have internal substructures that are often cell type specific, but their higher‐order organization remains elusive. Here, we investigate TAD higher‐order interactions with Hi‐C through neuronal differentiation and show that they form a hierarchy of domains‐within‐domains (metaTADs) extending across genomic scales up to the range of entire chromosomes. We find that TAD interactions are well captured by tree‐like, hierarchical structures irrespective of cell type. metaTAD tree structures correlate with genetic, epigenomic and expression features, and structural tree rearrangements during differentiation are linked to transcriptional state changes. Using polymer modelling, we demonstrate that hierarchical folding promotes efficient chromatin packaging without the loss of contact specificity, highlighting a role far beyond the simple need for packing efficiency. Overall design: Hi-C was performed in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESC), neural progenitor cells (NPC), and midbrain-like neurons (Neurons) using both HindIII and NcoI restriction enzymes
Project description:We describe Hi-C, a method that probes the three-dimensional architecture of whole genomes by coupling proximity-based ligation with massively parallel sequencing. We constructed spatial proximity maps of the human genome with Hi-C at a resolution of 1 megabase. These maps confirm the presence of chromosome territories and the spatial proximity of small, gene-rich chromosomes. We identified an additional level of genome organization that is characterized by the spatial segregation of open and closed chromatin to form two genome-wide compartments. At the megabase scale, the chromatin conformation is consistent with a fractal globule, a knot-free, polymer conformation that enables maximally dense packing while preserving the ability to easily fold and unfold any genomic locus. The fractal globule is distinct from the more commonly used globular equilibrium model. Our results demonstrate the power of Hi-C to map the dynamic conformations of whole genomes.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Despite its critical role for mammalian gene regulation, the basic structural landscape of chromatin in living cells remains largely unknown within chromosomal territories below the megabase scale. RESULTS: Here, using the 3C-qPCR method, we investigate contact frequencies at high resolution within interphase chromatin at several mouse loci. We find that, at several gene-rich loci, contact frequencies undergo a periodical modulation (every 90 to 100 kb) that affects chromatin dynamics over large genomic distances (a few hundred kilobases). Interestingly, this modulation appears to be conserved in human cells, and bioinformatic analyses of locus-specific, long-range cis-interactions suggest that it may underlie the dynamics of a significant number of gene-rich domains in mammals, thus contributing to genome evolution. Finally, using an original model derived from polymer physics, we show that this modulation can be understood as a fundamental helix shape that chromatin tends to adopt in gene-rich domains when no significant locus-specific interaction takes place. CONCLUSIONS: Altogether, our work unveils a fundamental aspect of chromatin dynamics in mammals and contributes to a better understanding of genome organization within chromosomal territories.
Project description:Mammalian chromatin is spatially organized at many scales showing two prominent features in interphase: (i) alternating regions (1-10 Mb) of active and inactive chromatin that spatially segregate into different compartments, and (ii) domains (<1 Mb), that is, regions that preferentially interact internally [topologically associating domains (TADs)] and are central to gene regulation. There is growing evidence that TADs are formed by active extrusion of chromatin loops by cohesin, whereas compartmentalization is established according to local chromatin states. Here, we use polymer simulations to examine how loop extrusion and compartmental segregation work collectively and potentially interfere in shaping global chromosome organization. A model with differential attraction between euchromatin and heterochromatin leads to phase separation and reproduces compartmentalization as observed in Hi-C. Loop extrusion, essential for TAD formation, in turn, interferes with compartmentalization. Our integrated model faithfully reproduces Hi-C data from puzzling experimental observations where altering loop extrusion also led to changes in compartmentalization. Specifically, depletion of chromatin-associated cohesin reduced TADs and revealed finer compartments, while increased processivity of cohesin strengthened large TADs and reduced compartmentalization; and depletion of the TAD boundary protein CTCF weakened TADs while leaving compartments unaffected. We reveal that these experimental perturbations are special cases of a general polymer phenomenon of active mixing by loop extrusion. Our results suggest that chromatin organization on the megabase scale emerges from competition of nonequilibrium active loop extrusion and epigenetically defined compartment structure.
Project description:The chromatin structure of DNA determines genome compaction and activity in the nucleus. On the basis of in vitro structures and electron microscopy (EM) studies, the hierarchical model is that 11-nanometer DNA-nucleosome polymers fold into 30- and subsequently into 120- and 300- to 700-nanometer fibers and mitotic chromosomes. To visualize chromatin in situ, we identified a fluorescent dye that stains DNA with an osmiophilic polymer and selectively enhances its contrast in EM. Using ChromEMT (ChromEM tomography), we reveal the ultrastructure and three-dimensional (3D) organization of individual chromatin polymers, megabase domains, and mitotic chromosomes. We show that chromatin is a disordered 5- to 24-nanometer-diameter curvilinear chain that is packed together at different 3D concentration distributions in interphase and mitosis. Chromatin chains have many different particle arrangements and bend at various lengths to achieve structural compaction and high packing densities.
Project description:In higher eukaryotes, the genome is partitioned into large "Topologically Associating Domains" (TADs) in which the chromatin displays favoured long-range contacts. While a crumpled/fractal globule organization has received experimental supports at higher-order levels, the organization principles that govern chromatin dynamics within these TADs remain unclear. Using simple polymer models, we previously showed that, in mouse liver cells, gene-rich domains tend to adopt a statistical helix shape when no significant locus-specific interaction takes place.Here, we use data from diverse 3C-derived methods to explore chromatin dynamics within mouse and Drosophila TADs. In mouse Embryonic Stem Cells (mESC), that possess large TADs (median size of 840 kb), we show that the statistical helix model, but not globule models, is relevant not only in gene-rich TADs, but also in gene-poor and gene-desert TADs. Interestingly, this statistical helix organization is considerably relaxed in mESC compared to liver cells, indicating that the impact of the constraints responsible for this organization is weaker in pluripotent cells. Finally, depletion of histone H1 in mESC alters local chromatin flexibility but not the statistical helix organization. In Drosophila, which possesses TADs of smaller sizes (median size of 70 kb), we show that, while chromatin compaction and flexibility are finely tuned according to the epigenetic landscape, chromatin dynamics within TADs is generally compatible with an unconstrained polymer configuration.Models issued from polymer physics can accurately describe the organization principles governing chromatin dynamics in both mouse and Drosophila TADs. However, constraints applied on this dynamics within mammalian TADs have a peculiar impact resulting in a statistical helix organization.
Project description:Understanding chromatin organization and dynamics is important, since they crucially affect DNA functions. In this study, we investigate chromatin dynamics by statistically analyzing single-nucleosome movement in living human cells. Bimodal nature of the mean square displacement distribution of nucleosomes allows for a natural categorization of the nucleosomes as fast and slow. Analyses of the nucleosome-nucleosome correlation functions within these categories along with the density of vibrational modes show that the nucleosomes form dynamically correlated fluid regions (i.e., dynamic domains of fast and slow nucleosomes). Perturbed nucleosome dynamics by global histone acetylation or cohesin inactivation indicate that nucleosome-nucleosome interactions along with tethering of chromatin chains organize nucleosomes into fast and slow dynamic domains. A simple polymer model is introduced, which shows the consistency of this dynamic domain picture. Statistical analyses of single-nucleosome movement provide rich information on how chromatin is dynamically organized in a fluid manner in living cells.
Project description:We carefully examine common measures of dynamical heterogeneity for a model polymer melt and test how these scales compare with those hypothesized by the Adam and Gibbs (AG) and random first-order transition (RFOT) theories of relaxation in glass-forming liquids. To this end, we first analyze clusters of highly mobile particles, the string-like collective motion of these mobile particles, and clusters of relative low mobility. We show that the time scale of the high-mobility clusters and strings is associated with a diffusive time scale, while the low-mobility particles' time scale relates to a structural relaxation time. The difference of the characteristic times for the high- and low-mobility particles naturally explains the well-known decoupling of diffusion and structural relaxation time scales. Despite the inherent difference of dynamics between high- and low-mobility particles, we find a high degree of similarity in the geometrical structure of these particle clusters. In particular, we show that the fractal dimensions of these clusters are consistent with those of swollen branched polymers or branched polymers with screened excluded-volume interactions, corresponding to lattice animals and percolation clusters, respectively. In contrast, the fractal dimension of the strings crosses over from that of self-avoiding walks for small strings, to simple random walks for longer, more strongly interacting, strings, corresponding to flexible polymers with screened excluded-volume interactions. We examine the appropriateness of identifying the size scales of either mobile particle clusters or strings with the size of cooperatively rearranging regions (CRR) in the AG and RFOT theories. We find that the string size appears to be the most consistent measure of CRR for both the AG and RFOT models. Identifying strings or clusters with the "mosaic" length of the RFOT model relaxes the conventional assumption that the "entropic droplets" are compact. We also confirm the validity of the entropy formulation of the AG theory, constraining the exponent values of the RFOT theory. This constraint, together with the analysis of size scales, enables us to estimate the characteristic exponents of RFOT.