Chromatin hierarchical branching visualized at the nanoscale by electron microscopy†
Chromatin is spatially organized in a hierarchical manner by virtue of single nucleosomes condensing into higher order chromatin structures, conferring various mechanical properties and biochemical signals. These higher order chromatin structures regulate genomic function by organization of the heterochromatin and euchromatin landscape. Less is known about its transition state from higher order heterochromatin to the lower order nucleosome form, and there is no information on its physical properties. We have developed a facile method of electron microscopy visualization to reveal the interphase chromatin in eukaryotic cells and its organization into hierarchical branching structures. We note that chromatin hierarchical branching can be distinguished at four levels, clearly indicating the stepwise transition from heterochromatin to euchromatin. The protein–DNA density across the chromatin fibers decreases during the transition from compacted heterochromatin to dispersed euchromatin. Moreover, the thickness of the chromatin ranges between 10 to 270 nm, and the controversial 30 nm chromatin fiber exists as a prominent intermediate structure. This study provides important insights into higher order chromatin organization which plays a key role in diseases such as cancer.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Nanoscale Advances HOT Article Collection