Published on Thu Sep 16 2021

Helical metaphase chromatid coiling is conserved

Kubalova, I., Camara, A. S., Capal, P., Beseda, T., Rouillard, J.-M., Krause, G. M., Toegelova, H., Himmelbach, A., Stein, N., Houben, A., Dolezel, J., Mascher, M., Simkova, H., Schubert, V.

The higher-order metaphase chromosome organization has been under controversial discussion already for 140 years. The number of turns is positively correlated with the arm length. Turn size and chromatin density decrease towards the telomeres.

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Abstract

The higher-order metaphase chromosome organization has been under controversial discussion already for 140 years. Classical light and electron microscopy proposed chromatids to be composed of helically organized chromatin fibers, so-called chromonemata. More recently also non-helical models were suggested. We studied the chromosome organization in barley by interdisciplinary cutting-edge approaches, such as chromosome sorting, chromosome conformation capture, oligonucleotide-fluorescence in situ hybridization, base analog incorporation, super-resolution microscopy, and polymer simulation to elucidate the arrangement of chromatids of large mitotic metaphase chromosomes. Our data provide cumulative evidence for the presence of a helically arranged 400 nm chromatin fiber representing the chromonema within the chromatid arms. The number of turns is positively correlated with the arm length. Turn size and chromatin density decrease towards the telomeres. Due to the specialized functions of centromeres and nucleolus-organizing regions, the helical organization is interrupted at these regions, which display several thinners and straight chromatin fibers. Based on our findings and re-analyzing previously published data from other plant and non-plant species we conclude that the helical turning of metaphase chromatid arms is a conserved feature of large eukaryotic chromosomes.