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Transcription organizes euchromatin similar to an active microemulsion

By Lennart Hilbert, Yuko Sato, Hiroshi Kimura, Frank Julicher, Alf Honigmann, Vasily Zaburdaev, Nadine Vastenhouw

Posted 15 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/234112

Chromatin is organized into heterochromatin, which is transcriptionally inactive, and euchromatin, which can switch between transcriptionally active and inactive states. This switch in euchromatin activity is accompanied by changes in its spatial distribution. How euchromatin rearrangements are established is unknown. Here we use super-resolution and live-cell microscopy to show that transcriptionally inactive euchromatin moves away from transcriptionally active euchromatin. This movement is driven by the formation of RNA-enriched microenvironments that exclude inactive euchromatin. Using theory, we show that the segregation into RNA-enriched microenvironments and euchromatin domains can be considered an active microemulsion. The tethering of transcripts to chromatin via RNA polymerase II forms effective amphiphiles that intersperse the two segregated phases. Taken together with previous experiments, our data suggest that chromatin is organized in the following way: heterochromatin segregates from euchromatin by phase separation, while transcription organizes euchromatin similar to an active microemulsion.

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