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Biochem Cell Biol. 2003 Jun;81(3):91-9.

High concentration of DNA in condensed chromatin.

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Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat de Ciències, Universitat Autòma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain.


The lengths of the DNA molecules of eukaryotic genomes are much greater than the dimensions of the metaphase chromosomes in which they are contained during mitosis. From this observation it has been generally assumed that the linear packing ratio of DNA is an adequate measure of the degree of DNA compaction. This review summarizes the evidence suggesting that the local concentration of DNA is more appropriate than the linear packing ratio for the study of chromatin condensation. The DNA concentrations corresponding to most of the models proposed for the 30-40 nm chromatin fiber are not high enough for the construction of metaphase chromosomes. The interdigitated solenoid model has a higher density because of the stacking of nucleosomes in secondary helices and, after further folding into chromatids, it yields a final concentration of DNA that approaches the experimental value found for condensed chromosomes. Since recent results have shown that metaphase chromosomes contain high concentrations of the chromatin packing ions Mg2+ and Ca2+, it is discussed that dynamic rather than rigid models are required to explain the condensation of the extended fibers observed in the absence of these cations. Finally, considering the different lines of evidence demonstrating the stacking of nucleosomes in different chromatin complexes, it is suggested that the face-to-face interactions between nucleosomes may be the driving force for the formation of higher order structures with a high local concentration of DNA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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