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BMC Biol. 2018 Nov 26;16(1):142. doi: 10.1186/s12915-018-0608-2.

Migration through a small pore disrupts inactive chromatin organization in neutrophil-like cells.

Author information

Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Wichita State University, Wichita, USA.
College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of New England, Portland, ME, USA.
Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



Mammalian cells are flexible and can rapidly change shape when they contract, adhere, or migrate. The nucleus must be stiff enough to withstand cytoskeletal forces, but flexible enough to remodel as the cell changes shape. This is particularly important for cells migrating through confined spaces, where the nuclear shape must change in order to fit through a constriction. This occurs many times in the life cycle of a neutrophil, which must protect its chromatin from damage and disruption associated with migration. Here we characterized the effects of constricted migration in neutrophil-like cells.


Total RNA sequencing identified that migration of neutrophil-like cells through 5- or 14-μm pores was associated with changes in the transcript levels of inflammation and chemotaxis-related genes when compared to unmigrated cells. Differentially expressed transcripts specific to migration with constriction were enriched for groups of genes associated with cytoskeletal remodeling. Hi-C was used to capture the genome organization in control and migrated cells. Limited switching was observed between the active (A) and inactive (B) compartments after migration. However, global depletion of short-range contacts was observed following migration with constriction compared to migration without constriction. Regions with disrupted contacts, TADs, and compartments were enriched for inactive chromatin.


Short-range genome organization is preferentially altered in inactive chromatin, possibly protecting transcriptionally active contacts from the disruptive effects of migration with constriction. This is consistent with current hypotheses implicating heterochromatin as the mechanoresponsive form of chromatin. Further investigation concerning the contribution of heterochromatin to stiffness, flexibility, and protection of nuclear function will be important for understanding cell migration in relation to human health and disease.


Chromatin conformation; Epigenetics; Heterochromatin; Hi-C; Immune; Mechanotransduction; Migration; Neutrophil; Nuclear remodeling; Transcription

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