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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2010 Jun;22(3):314-9. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 May 22.

Genomic Pangea: coordinate gene regulation and cell-specific chromosomal topologies.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


The eukaryotic nucleus is functionally organized. Gene loci, for example, often reveal altered localization patterns according to their developmental regulation. Whole chromosomes also demonstrate non-random nuclear positions, correlated with inherent characteristics such as gene density or size. Given that hundreds to thousands of genes are coordinately regulated in any given cell type, interest has grown in whether chromosomes may be specifically localized according to gene regulation. A synthesis of the evidence for preferential chromosomal organization suggests that, beyond basic characteristics, chromosomes can assume positions functionally related to gene expression. Moreover, analysis of total chromosome organization during cellular differentiation indicates that unique chromosome topologies, albeit probabilistic, in effect define a cell lineage. Future work with new techniques, including the advanced forms of the chromosome conformation capture (3C), and the development of next-generation whole-genome imaging approaches, will help to refine our view of chromosomal organization. We suggest that genomic organization during cellular differentiation should be viewed as a dynamic process, with gene expression patterns leading to chromosome associations that feed back on themselves, leading to the self-organization of the genome according to coordinate gene regulation.

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