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    We develop a predictive theoretical model of the physical mechanisms that govern the heritability and maintenance of epigenetic modifications. This model focuses on a particular modification, methylation of lysine-9 of histone H3 (H3K9), which is one of the most representative and critical epigenetic marks that affects chromatin organization and gene expression. Our model combines the effect of segregation and compaction on chromosomal organization with the effect of the interaction between proteins that compact the chromatin (heterochromatin protein 1) and the methyltransferases that affect methyl spreading. Our chromatin model demonstrates that a block of H3K9 methylations in the epigenetic sequence determines the compaction state at any particular location in the chromatin. Using our predictive model for chromatin compaction, we develop a methylation model to address the reestablishment of the methylation sequence following DNA replication. Our model reliably maintains methylation over generations, thereby establishing the robustness of the epigenetic code. 
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  4. We use a chromosome-scale simulation to show that the preferential binding of heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) to regions high in histone methylation (specifically H3K9me3) results in phase segregation and reproduces features of the observed Hi-C contact map. Specifically, we perform Monte Carlo simulations with one computational bead per nucleosome and an H3K9me3 pattern based on published ChIP-seq signals. We implement a binding model in which HP1 preferentially binds to trimethylated histone tails and then oligomerizes to bridge together nucleosomes. We observe a phase reminiscent of heterochromatin—dense and high in H3K9me3—and another reminiscent of euchromatin—less dense and lacking H3K9me3. This segregation results in a plaid contact probability map that matches the general shape and position of published Hi-C data. Analysis suggests that a roughly 20-kb segment of H3K9me3 enrichment is required to drive segregation into the heterochromatic phase. 
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