High precision size measurement of centromere 8 and the 8q24/c-myc gene region in metaphase and interphase human fibroblasts indicate differential condensation.

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J Struct Biol 2008 Dec; 164(3):293-303.


The hypothesis that distinct chromatin domains expand and are remodelled differently when they undergo transcription, replication or cell cycle processes is well accepted. The condensation changes by which chromosomes are transformed at the metaphase-interphase transition are especially interesting and therefore extensively studied by light microscopy; however, quantitative information of the size on specific small chromatin domains during the cell cycle is scarce. In this respect, a serious problem is the determination of structural features close to the resolution limit. In this report we use a novel approach to quantify the lateral extent of the 8q24/c-myc gene domain and the centromeric region of chromosome 8 in doubly labelled normal human foreskin fibroblasts using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). The domains were analysed in both metaphase spreads and interphase nuclei. These high precision measurements revealed a somewhat smaller (few 10s of nm) lateral extension of the centromere region in metaphase compared to interphase. Surprisingly, within the same cells the lateral extension of the 8q24/c-myc region was significantly smaller in interphase than in metaphase. For comparison the centromere size was more condensed in metaphase than in interphase. This implies a different folding behaviour for specific chromatin domains with opposite condensation behaviour.