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Mitotic chromosomes fold by condensin-dependent helical winding of chromatin loop arrays

By Johan H. Gibcus, Kumiko Samejima, Anton Goloborodko, Itaru Samejima, Natalia Naumova, Masato Kanemaki, Linfeng Xie, James R. Paulson, William C. Earnshaw, Leonid A. Mirny, Job Dekker

Posted 10 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/174649

During mitosis, chromosomes fold into compacted rod shaped structures. We combined imaging and Hi-C of synchronous DT40 cell cultures with polymer simulations to determine how interphase chromosomes are converted into compressed arrays of loops characteristic of mitotic chromosomes. We found that the interphase organization is disassembled within minutes of prophase entry and by late prophase chromosomes are already folded as arrays of consecutive loops. During prometaphase, this array reorganizes to form a helical arrangement of nested loops. Polymer simulations reveal that Hi-C data are inconsistent with solenoidal coiling of the entire chromatid, but instead suggest a centrally located helically twisted axis from which consecutive loops emanate as in a spiral staircase. Chromosomes subsequently shorten through progressive helical winding, with the numbers of loops per turn increasing so that the size of a helical turn grows from around 3 Mb (~40 loops) to ~12 Mb (~150 loops) in fully condensed metaphase chromosomes. Condensin is essential to disassemble the interphase chromatin conformation. Analysis of mutants revealed differing roles for condensin I and II during these processes. Either condensin can mediate formation of loop arrays. However, condensin II was required for helical winding during prometaphase, whereas condensin I modulated the size and arrangement of loops inside the helical turns. These observations identify a mitotic chromosome morphogenesis pathway in which folding of linear loop arrays produces long thin chromosomes during prophase that then shorten by progressive growth of loops and helical winding during prometaphase.

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