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Traffic. 2018 Feb;19(2):87-104. doi: 10.1111/tra.12539. Epub 2017 Dec 3.

The biology and polymer physics underlying large-scale chromosome organization.

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Verna and Marrs McLean Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.
Institute Lorentz for Theoretical Physics, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Chromosome large-scale organization is a beautiful example of the interplay between physics and biology. DNA molecules are polymers and thus belong to the class of molecules for which physicists have developed models and formulated testable hypotheses to understand their arrangement and dynamic properties in solution, based on the principles of polymer physics. Biologists documented and discovered the biochemical basis for the structure, function and dynamic spatial organization of chromosomes in cells. The underlying principles of chromosome organization have recently been revealed in unprecedented detail using high-resolution chromosome capture technology that can simultaneously detect chromosome contact sites throughout the genome. These independent lines of investigation have now converged on a model in which DNA loops, generated by the loop extrusion mechanism, are the basic organizational and functional units of the chromosome.


Hi-C; SMC; chromosome evolution; chromosome territory; chromosome tethering; cohesin; fractal globule; loop extrusion; polymer physics; topologically associated domains

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