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Nucleus. 2012 Sep-Oct;3(5):404-10. doi: 10.4161/nucl.21222. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Chromosomes without a 30-nm chromatin fiber.

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XFEL Division; Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute, Sayo-cho, Japan.


How is a long strand of genomic DNA packaged into a mitotic chromosome or nucleus? The nucleosome fiber (beads-on-a-string), in which DNA is wrapped around core histones, has long been assumed to be folded into a 30-nm chromatin fiber, and a further helically folded larger fiber. However, when frozen hydrated human mitotic cells were observed using cryoelectron microscopy, no higher-order structures that included 30-nm chromatin fibers were found. To investigate the bulk structure of mitotic chromosomes further, we performed small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), which can detect periodic structures in noncrystalline materials in solution. The results were striking: no structural feature larger than 11 nm was detected, even at a chromosome-diameter scale (~1 μm). We also found a similar scattering pattern in interphase nuclei of HeLa cells in the range up to ~275 nm. Our findings suggest a common structural feature in interphase and mitotic chromatins: compact and irregular folding of nucleosome fibers occurs without a 30-nm chromatin structure.

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