The influence of spatial variation in chromatin density determined by X-ray tomograms on the time to find DNA binding sites.
ABSTRACT: In this work, we examine how volume exclusion caused by regions of high chromatin density might influence the time required for proteins to find specific DNA binding sites. The spatial variation of chromatin density within mouse olfactory sensory neurons is determined from soft X-ray tomography reconstructions of five nuclei. We show that there is a division of the nuclear space into regions of low-density euchromatin and high-density heterochromatin. Volume exclusion experienced by a diffusing protein caused by this varying density of chromatin is modeled by a repulsive potential. The value of the potential at a given point in space is chosen to be proportional to the density of chromatin at that location. The constant of proportionality, called the volume exclusivity, provides a model parameter that determines the strength of volume exclusion. Numerical simulations demonstrate that the mean time for a protein to locate a binding site localized in euchromatin is minimized for a finite, nonzero volume exclusivity. For binding sites in heterochromatin, the mean time is minimized when the volume exclusivity is zero (the protein experiences no volume exclusion). An analytical theory is developed to explain these results. The theory suggests that for binding sites in euchromatin there is an optimal level of volume exclusivity that balances a reduction in the volume searched in finding the binding site, with the height of effective potential barriers the protein must cross during the search process.
Project description:Within the nuclei of eukaryotic cells, the density of chromatin is nonuniform. We study the influence of this nonuniform density, which we derive from microscopic images [Schermelleh L, et al. (2008) Science 320:1332-1336], on the diffusion of proteins within the nucleus, under the hypothesis that chromatin density is proportional to an effective potential that tends to exclude the diffusing protein from regions of high chromatin density. The constant of proportionality, which we call the volume exclusivity of chromatin, is a model parameter that we can tune to study the influence of such volume exclusivity on the random time required for a diffusing particle to find its target. We consider randomly chosen binding sites located in regions of low (20th-30th percentile) chromatin density, and we compute the median time to find such a binding site by a protein that enters the nucleus at a randomly chosen nuclear pore. As the volume exclusivity of chromatin increases from zero, we find that the median time needed to reach the target binding site at first decreases to a minimum, and then increases again as the volume exclusivity of chromatin increases further. Random permutation of the voxel values of chromatin density abolishes the minimum, thus demonstrating that the speedup seen with increasing volume exclusivity at low to moderate volume exclusivity is dependent upon the spatial structure of chromatin within the nucleus.
Project description:The nucleus of eukaryotes is organized into functional compartments, the two most prominent being heterochromatin and nucleoli. These structures are highly enriched in DNA, proteins or RNA, and thus thought to be crowded. In vitro, molecular crowding induces volume exclusion, hinders diffusion and enhances association, but whether these effects are relevant in vivo remains unclear. Here, we establish that volume exclusion and diffusive hindrance occur in dense nuclear compartments by probing the diffusive behaviour of inert fluorescent tracers in living cells. We also demonstrate that chromatin-interacting proteins remain transiently trapped in heterochromatin due to crowding induced enhanced affinity. The kinetic signatures of these crowding consequences allow us to derive a fractal model of chromatin organization, which explains why the dynamics of soluble nuclear proteins are affected independently of their size. This model further shows that the fractal architecture differs between heterochromatin and euchromatin, and predicts that chromatin proteins use different target-search strategies in the two compartments. We propose that fractal crowding is a fundamental principle of nuclear organization, particularly of heterochromatin maintenance.
Project description:Sharp increase in macromolecular crowding induces abnormal chromatin compaction in the cell nucleus, suggesting its non-negligible impact on chromatin structure and function. However, the details of the crowding-induced chromatin compaction remain poorly understood. In this work, we present a computer simulation study on the entropic effect of macromolecular crowding on the interaction between chromatin structural units called nucleosome clutches. Nucleosome clutches were modeled by a chain of nucleosomes collapsed by harmonic restraints implicitly mimicking the nucleosome association mediated by histone tails and linker histones. The nucleosome density of the clutches was set close to either that of high-density heterochromatin or that of low-density euchromatin. The effective interactions between these nucleosome clutches were calculated in various crowding conditions, and it was found that the increase in the degree of macromolecular crowding induced attractive interaction between two clutches with high nucleosome density. Interestingly, the increased degree of macromolecular crowding did not induce any attraction between two clutches with low nucleosome density. Our results suggest that the entropic effect of macromolecular crowding can enhance binding between nucleosome clutches in heterochromatin, but not in euchromatin, as a result of the difference in nucleosome packing degrees.
Project description:Lamins are components of the peripheral nuclear lamina and interact with heterochromatic genomic regions, termed lamina-associated domains (LADs). In contrast to lamin B1 being primarily present at the nuclear periphery, lamin A/C also localizes throughout the nucleus, where it associates with the chromatin-binding protein lamina-associated polypeptide (LAP) 2 alpha. Here, we show that lamin A/C also interacts with euchromatin, as determined by chromatin immunoprecipitation of euchromatin- and heterochromatin-enriched samples. By way of contrast, lamin B1 was only found associated with heterochromatin. Euchromatic regions occupied by lamin A/C overlap with those bound by LAP2alpha, and lack of LAP2alpha in LAP2alpha-deficient cells shifts binding of lamin A/C toward more heterochromatic regions. These alterations in lamin A/C-chromatin interactions correlate with changes in epigenetic histone marks in euchromatin but do not significantly affect gene expression. Loss of lamin A/C in heterochromatic regions in LAP2alpha-deficient cells, however, correlated with increased gene expression. Our data show a novel role of nucleoplasmic lamin A/C and LAP2alpha in regulating euchromatin.
Project description:Heterochromatin plays an important role in chromosome function and gene regulation. Despite the availability of polytene chromosomes and genome sequence, the heterochromatin of the major malaria vector Anopheles gambiae has not been mapped and characterized.To determine the extent of heterochromatin within the An. gambiae genome, genes were physically mapped to the euchromatin-heterochromatin transition zone of polytene chromosomes. The study found that a minimum of 232 genes reside in 16.6 Mb of mapped heterochromatin. Gene ontology analysis revealed that heterochromatin is enriched in genes with DNA-binding and regulatory activities. Immunostaining of the An. gambiae chromosomes with antibodies against Drosophila melanogaster heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) and the nuclear envelope protein lamin Dm0 identified the major invariable sites of the proteins' localization in all regions of pericentric heterochromatin, diffuse intercalary heterochromatin, and euchromatic region 9C of the 2R arm, but not in the compact intercalary heterochromatin. To better understand the molecular differences among chromatin types, novel Bayesian statistical models were developed to analyze genome features. The study found that heterochromatin and euchromatin differ in gene density and the coverage of retroelements and segmental duplications. The pericentric heterochromatin had the highest coverage of retroelements and tandem repeats, while intercalary heterochromatin was enriched with segmental duplications. We also provide evidence that the diffuse intercalary heterochromatin has a higher coverage of DNA transposable elements, minisatellites, and satellites than does the compact intercalary heterochromatin. The investigation of 42-Mb assembly of unmapped genomic scaffolds showed that it has molecular characteristics similar to cytologically mapped heterochromatin.Our results demonstrate that Anopheles polytene chromosomes and whole-genome shotgun assembly render the mapping and characterization of a significant part of heterochromatic scaffolds a possibility. These results reveal the strong association between characteristics of the genome features and morphological types of chromatin. Initial analysis of the An. gambiae heterochromatin provides a framework for its functional characterization and comparative genomic analyses with other organisms.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Chromatin provides a tunable platform for gene expression control. Besides the well-studied core nucleosome, H1 linker histones are abundant chromatin components with intrinsic potential to influence chromatin function. Well studied in animals, little is known about the evolution of H1 function in other eukaryotic lineages for instance plants. Notably, in the model plant Arabidopsis, while H1 is known to influence heterochromatin and DNA methylation, its contribution to transcription, molecular, and cytological chromatin organization remains elusive. RESULTS:We provide a multi-scale functional study of Arabidopsis linker histones. We show that H1-deficient plants are viable yet show phenotypes in seed dormancy, flowering time, lateral root, and stomata formation-complemented by either or both of the major variants. H1 depletion also impairs pluripotent callus formation. Fine-scale chromatin analyses combined with transcriptome and nucleosome profiling reveal distinct roles of H1 on hetero- and euchromatin: H1 is necessary to form heterochromatic domains yet dispensable for silencing of most transposable elements; H1 depletion affects nucleosome density distribution and mobility in euchromatin, spatial arrangement of nanodomains, histone acetylation, and methylation. These drastic changes affect moderately the transcription but reveal a subset of H1-sensitive genes. CONCLUSIONS:H1 variants have a profound impact on the molecular and spatial (nuclear) chromatin organization in Arabidopsis with distinct roles in euchromatin and heterochromatin and a dual causality on gene expression. Phenotypical analyses further suggest the novel possibility that H1-mediated chromatin organization may contribute to the epigenetic control of developmental and cellular transitions.
Project description:Heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) is a central factor in establishing and maintaining the repressive heterochromatin state. To elucidate its mobility and interactions, we conducted a comprehensive analysis on different time and length scales by fluorescence fluctuation microscopy in mouse cell lines. The local mobility of HP1alpha and HP1beta was investigated in densely packed pericentric heterochromatin foci and compared with other bona fide euchromatin regions of the nucleus by fluorescence bleaching and correlation methods. A quantitative description of HP1alpha/beta in terms of its concentration, diffusion coefficient, kinetic binding, and dissociation rate constants was derived. Three distinct classes of chromatin-binding sites with average residence times t(res) <or= 0.2 s (class I, dominant in euchromatin), 7 s (class II, dominant in heterochromatin), and approximately 2 min (class III, only in heterochromatin) were identified. HP1 was present at low micromolar concentrations at heterochromatin foci, and required histone H3 lysine 9 methylases Suv39h1/2 for two- to fourfold enrichment at these sites. These findings impose a number of constraints for the mechanism by which HP1 is able to maintain a heterochromatin state.
Project description:Histone modifications are important epigenetic features of chromatin that must be replicated faithfully. However, the molecular mechanisms required to duplicate and maintain histone modification patterns in chromatin remain to be determined. Here, we show that the introduction of histone modifications into newly deposited nucleosomes depends upon their location in the chromosome. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, newly deposited nucleosomes consisting of newly synthesized histone H3-H4 tetramers are distributed throughout the entire chromosome. Methylation of lysine 4 on histone H3 (H3-K4), a hallmark of euchromatin, is introduced into these newly deposited nucleosomes, regardless of whether the neighboring preexisting nucleosomes harbor the K4 mutation in histone H3. Furthermore, if the heterochromatin-binding protein Sir3 is unavailable during DNA replication, histone H3-K4 methylation is introduced onto newly deposited nucleosomes in telomeric heterochromatin. Thus, a conservative distribution model most accurately explains the inheritance of histone modifications because the location of histones within euchromatin or heterochromatin determines which histone modifications are introduced.
Project description:As a cell squeezes its nucleus through adjacent tissue, penetrates a basement membrane, or enters a small blood capillary, chromatin density and nuclear factors could in principle be physically perturbed. Here, in cancer cell migration through rigid micropores and in passive pulling into micropipettes, local compaction of chromatin is observed coincident with depletion of mobile factors. Heterochromatin/euchromatin was previously estimated from molecular mobility measurements to occupy a volume fraction f of roughly two-thirds of the nuclear volume, but based on the relative intensity of DNA and histones in several cancer cell lines drawn into narrow constrictions, f can easily increase locally to nearly 100%. By contrast, mobile proteins in the nucleus, including a dozen that function as DNA repair proteins (e.g., BRCA1, 53BP1) or nucleases (e.g., Cas9, FokI), are depleted within the constriction, approaching 0%. Such losses-compounded by the occasional rupture of the nuclear envelope-can have important functional consequences. Studies of a nuclease that targets a locus in chromosome-1 indeed show that constricted migration delays DNA damage.
Project description:The nucleus of mammalian cells displays a distinct spatial segregation of active euchromatic and inactive heterochromatic regions of the genome1,2. In conventional nuclei, microscopy shows that euchromatin is localized in the nuclear interior and heterochromatin at the nuclear periphery1,2. Genome-wide chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C) analyses show this segregation as a plaid pattern of contact enrichment within euchromatin and heterochromatin compartments3, and depletion between them. Many mechanisms for the formation of compartments have been proposed, such as attraction of heterochromatin to the nuclear lamina2,4, preferential attraction of similar chromatin to each other1,4-12, higher levels of chromatin mobility in active chromatin13-15 and transcription-related clustering of euchromatin16,17. However, these hypotheses have remained inconclusive, owing to the difficulty of disentangling intra-chromatin and chromatin-lamina interactions in conventional nuclei18. The marked reorganization of interphase chromosomes in the inverted nuclei of rods in nocturnal mammals19,20 provides an opportunity to elucidate the mechanisms that underlie spatial compartmentalization. Here we combine Hi-C analysis of inverted rod nuclei with microscopy and polymer simulations. We find that attractions between heterochromatic regions are crucial for establishing both compartmentalization and the concentric shells of pericentromeric heterochromatin, facultative heterochromatin and euchromatin in the inverted nucleus. When interactions between heterochromatin and the lamina are added, the same model recreates the conventional nuclear organization. In addition, our models allow us to rule out mechanisms of compartmentalization that involve strong euchromatin interactions. Together, our experiments and modelling suggest that attractions between heterochromatic regions are essential for the phase separation of the active and inactive genome in inverted and conventional nuclei, whereas interactions of the chromatin with the lamina are necessary to build the conventional architecture from these segregated phases.