skip to main content

Title: Symmetry-based classification of forces driving chromatin dynamics
Chromatin – the functional form of DNA in the cell – exists in the form of a polymer immersed in a nucleoplasmic fluid inside the cell nucleus. Both chromatin and nucleoplasm are subject to active forces resulting from local biological processes. This activity leads to non-equilibrium phenomena, affecting chromatin organization and dynamics, yet the underlying physics is far from understood. Here, we expand upon a previously developed two-fluid model of chromatin and nucleoplasm by considering three types of activity in the form of force dipoles – two with both forces of the dipole acting on the same fluid (either polymer or nucleoplasm) and a third, with two forces pushing chromatin and solvent in opposite directions. We find that this latter type results in the most significant flows, dominating over most length scales of interest. Due to the friction between the fluids and their viscosity, we observe emergent screening length scales in the active flows of this system. We predict that the presence of different activity types and their relative strengths can be inferred from observing the power spectra of hydrodynamic fluctuations in the chromatin and the nucleoplasm.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1762506 1554880 2153432 2210541
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Soft Matter
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The 3D spatiotemporal organization of the human genome inside the cell nucleus remains a major open question in cellular biology. In the time between two cell divisions, chromatin—the functional form of DNA in cells—fills the nucleus in its uncondensed polymeric form. Recent in vivo imaging experiments reveal that the chromatin moves coherently, having displacements with long-ranged correlations on the scale of micrometers and lasting for seconds. To elucidate the mechanism(s) behind these motions, we develop a coarse-grained active polymer model where chromatin is represented as a confined flexible chain acted upon by molecular motors that drive fluid flows by exerting dipolar forces on the system. Numerical simulations of this model account for steric and hydrodynamic interactions as well as internal chain mechanics. These demonstrate that coherent motions emerge in systems involving extensile dipoles and are accompanied by large-scale chain reconfigurations and nematic ordering. Comparisons with experiments show good qualitative agreement and support the hypothesis that self-organizing long-ranged hydrodynamic couplings between chromatin-associated active motor proteins are responsible for the observed coherent dynamics.

    more » « less
  2. Bloom, Kerry (Ed.)
    The chromosomes—DNA polymers and their binding proteins—are compacted into a spatially organized, yet dynamic, three-dimensional structure. Recent genome-wide chromatin conformation capture experiments reveal a hierarchical organization of the DNA structure that is imposed, at least in part, by looping interactions arising from the activity of loop extrusion factors. The dynamics of chromatin reflects the response of the polymer to a combination of thermal fluctuations and active processes. However, how chromosome structure and enzymes acting on chromatin together define its dynamics remains poorly understood. To gain insight into the structure-dynamics relationship of chromatin, we combine high-precision microscopy in living Schizosaccharomyces pombe cells with systematic genetic perturbations and Rouse model polymer simulations. We first investigated how the activity of two loop extrusion factors, the cohesin and condensin complexes, influences chromatin dynamics. We observed that deactivating cohesin, or to a lesser extent condensin, increased chromatin mobility, suggesting that loop extrusion constrains rather than agitates chromatin motion. Our corresponding simulations reveal that the introduction of loops is sufficient to explain the constraining activity of loop extrusion factors, highlighting that the conformation adopted by the polymer plays a key role in defining its dynamics. Moreover, we find that the number of loops or residence times of loop extrusion factors influence the dynamic behavior of the chromatin polymer. Last, we observe that the activity of the INO80 chromatin remodeler, but not the SWI/SNF or RSC complexes, is critical for ATP-dependent chromatin mobility in fission yeast. Taking the data together, we suggest that thermal and INO80-dependent activities exert forces that drive chromatin fluctuations, which are constrained by the organization of the chromosome into loops. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Using computer simulations, we generate cell-specific 3D chromosomal structures and compare them to recently published chromatin structures obtained through microscopy. We demonstrate using machine learning and polymer physics simulations that epigenetic information can be used to predict the structural ensembles of multiple human cell lines. Theory predicts that chromosome structures are fluid and can only be described by an ensemble, which is consistent with the observation that chromosomes exhibit no unique fold. Nevertheless, our analysis of both structures from simulation and microscopy reveals that short segments of chromatin make two-state transitions between closed conformations and open dumbbell conformations. Finally, we study the conformational changes associated with the switching of genomic compartments observed in human cell lines. The formation of genomic compartments resembles hydrophobic collapse in protein folding, with the aggregation of denser and predominantly inactive chromatin driving the positioning of active chromatin toward the surface of individual chromosomal territories. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Extending across multiple length scales, dynamic chromatin structure is linked to transcription through the regulation of genome organization. However, no individual technique can fully elucidate this structure and its relation to molecular function at all length and time scales at both a single-cell level and a population level. Here, we present a multitechnique nanoscale chromatin imaging and analysis (nano-ChIA) platform that consolidates electron tomography of the primary chromatin fiber, optical super-resolution imaging of transcription processes, and label-free nano-sensing of chromatin packing and its dynamics in live cells. Using nano-ChIA, we observed that chromatin is localized into spatially separable packing domains, with an average diameter of around 200 nanometers, sub-megabase genomic size, and an internal fractal structure. The chromatin packing behavior of these domains exhibits a complex bidirectional relationship with active gene transcription. Furthermore, we found that properties of PDs are correlated among progenitor and progeny cells across cell division. 
    more » « less
  5. The size of the nucleus scales robustly with cell size so that the nuclear-to-cell volume ratio (N/C ratio) is maintained during cell growth in many cell types. The mechanism responsible for this scaling remains mysterious. Previous studies have established that the N/C ratio is not determined by DNA amount but is instead influenced by factors such as nuclear envelope mechanics and nuclear transport. Here, we developed a quantitative model for nuclear size control based upon colloid osmotic pressure and tested key predictions in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe . This model posits that the N/C ratio is determined by the numbers of macromolecules in the nucleoplasm and cytoplasm. Osmotic shift experiments showed that the fission yeast nucleus behaves as an ideal osmometer whose volume is primarily dictated by osmotic forces. Inhibition of nuclear export caused accumulation of macromolecules in the nucleoplasm, leading to nuclear swelling. We further demonstrated that the N/C ratio is maintained by a homeostasis mechanism based upon synthesis of macromolecules during growth. These studies demonstrate the functions of colloid osmotic pressure in intracellular organization and size control. 
    more » « less