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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2005 Mar 29;360(1455):537-42.

Rings, bracelet or snaps: fashionable alternatives for Smc complexes.

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Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 115 W. University Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21210, USA.


The mechanism of higher order chromosome organization has eluded researchers for over 100 years. A breakthrough occurred with the discovery of multi-subunit protein complexes that contain a core of two molecules from the structural maintenance of chromosome (Smc) family. Smc complexes are important structural components of chromosome organization in diverse aspects of DNA metabolism, including sister chromatid cohesion, condensation, global gene repression, DNA repair and homologous recombination. In these different processes, Smc complexes may facilitate chromosome organization by tethering together two parts of the same or different chromatin strands. The mechanism of tethering by Smc complexes remains to be elucidated, but a number of intriguing topological alternatives are suggested by the unusual structural features of Smc complexes, including their large coiled-coil domains and ATPase activities. Distinguishing between these possibilities will require innovative new approaches.

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