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Hum Genet. 1990 Mar;84(4):301-36.

Potential genetic functions of tandem repeated DNA sequence blocks in the human genome are based on a highly conserved "chromatin folding code".

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Institut für Humangenetik und Anthropologie der Universität, Heidelberg, Federal Republic of Germany.


This review is based on a thorough description of the structure and sequence organization of tandemly organized repetitive DNA sequence families in the human genome; it is aimed at revealing the locus-specific sequence organization of tandemly repetitive sequence structures as a highly conserved DNA sequence code. These repetitive so-called "super-structures" or "higher-order" structures are able to attract specific nuclear proteins. I shall define this code therefore as a "chromatin folding code". Since locus-specific superstructures of tandemly repetitive sequence units are present not only in the chromosome centromere or telomere region but also on the arms of the chromosomes, I assume that their chromatin folding code may contribute to, or even organize, the folding pathway of the chromatin chain in the nucleus. The "chromatin folding code" is based on its specific "chromatin code", which describes the sequence dependence of the helical pathway of the DNA primary sequence (i.e., secondary structure) entrapping the histone octamers in preferential positions. There is no periodicity in the distribution of the nucleosomes along the DNA chain. The folding pathway of the nucleosomal chromatin chain is however still flexible and determined by e.g., the length of the DNA chain between the nucleosomes. The fixation and stabilization of the chromatin chain in the space of the nucleus (i.e., its "functional state") may be mediated by additionally unique DNA protein interactions that are dictated by the "chromatin folding code". The unique DNA-protein interactions around the centromeres of human chromosomes are revealed for example by their "C-banding". I wish to stress that it is not my aim to relate each block of repetitive DNA sequences to a specific "chromatin folding code", but I shall demonstrate that there is an inherent potential for tandem repeated sequence units to develop a locus-specific repetitive higher order structure; this potential may create a specific chromatin folding code whenever a selection force exists at the position of this repetitive DNA structure in the genome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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