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Curr Biol. 2002 Mar 5;12(5):R185-92.

Order and disorder in the nucleus.

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  • Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA. wallace.marshall@yale.edu


Fluorescence in situ hybridization combined with three-dimensional microscopy has shown that chromosomes are not randomly strewn throughout the nucleus but are in fact fairly well organized, with different loci reproducibly found in different regions of the nucleus. At the same time, increasingly sophisticated methods to track and analyze the movements of specific chromosomal loci in vivo using four-dimensional microscopy have revealed that chromatin undergoes extensive Brownian motion. However, the diffusion of interphase chromatin is constrained, implying that chromosomes are physically anchored within the nucleus. This constraint on diffusion is the result of interactions between chromatin and structural elements within the nucleus, such as nuclear pores or the nuclear lamina. The combination of defined positioning with constrained diffusion has a strong impact on interactions between chromosomal loci, and appears to explain the tendency of certain chromosome rearrangements to occur during the development of cancer.

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