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Chromosoma. 2014 Jun;123(3):225-37. doi: 10.1007/s00412-014-0460-2. Epub 2014 Apr 16.

Chromatin as dynamic 10-nm fibers.

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Biological Macromolecules Laboratory, Structural Biology Center, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Shizuoka, 411-8540, Japan,


Since Flemming described a nuclear substance in the nineteenth century and named it "chromatin," this substance has fascinated biologists. What is the structure of chromatin? DNA is wrapped around core histones, forming a nucleosome fiber (10-nm fiber). This fiber has long been assumed to fold into a 30-nm chromatin fiber and subsequently into helically folded larger fibers or radial loops. However, several recent studies, including our cryo-EM and X-ray scattering analyses, demonstrated that chromatin is composed of irregularly folded 10-nm fibers, without 30-nm chromatin fibers, in interphase chromatin and mitotic chromosomes. This irregular folding implies a chromatin state that is physically less constrained, which could be more dynamic compared with classical regular helical folding structures. Consistent with this, recently, we uncovered by single nucleosome imaging large nucleosome fluctuations in living mammalian cells (∼50 nm/30 ms). Subsequent computational modeling suggested that nucleosome fluctuation increases chromatin accessibility, which is advantageous for many "target searching" biological processes such as transcriptional regulation. Therefore, this review provides a novel view on chromatin structure in which chromatin consists of dynamic and disordered 10-nm fibers.

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