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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Aug 15;90(16):7854-8.

Polymer models for interphase chromosomes.

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Joint Center for Radiation Therapy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.


The overall geometry of chromosomes in mammalian cells during interphase is analyzed. On scales larger than approximately 10(5) bp, a chromosome is modeled as a Gaussian polymer subjected to additional forces that confine it to a subvolume of the cell nucleus. An appropriate partial differential equation for the polymer Green's function leads to predictions for the average geometric length between two points on the chromosome. The model reproduces several of the experimental observations: (i) a square root dependence of average geometric distance between two marked chromosome locations on their genomic separation over genomic length scales from approximately 10(5) to approximately 10(6) bp; (ii) an approach of the geometric distance to a maximum value for still larger genomic separations of the two points; (iii) overall chromosome localization in subdomains of the cell nucleus, as suggested by fluorescent labeling of whole chromosomes and by radiobiological evidence. The model is also consistent with known properties of the 30-nm chromatin fiber. It makes a testable prediction: that for two markers a given number of base pairs apart on a given chromosome, the average geometric separation is larger if the configuration is near one end of the chromosome than if it is near the center of the chromosome.

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