Home LATEST NEWS The “fluid” nature of chromosomes revealed for the first time

The “fluid” nature of chromosomes revealed for the first time


The human body is made up of billions of microscopic cells in the middle of which is a nucleus. This houses the chromosomes in which is the DNA carrying the genes where the genetic information of an individual is written.

In living cells

Researchers associated with the Institut Curie, the Sorbonne University and the French Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) have succeeded in directly manipulating the chromosomes of living cells. By subjecting the chromosomes to different forces, using magnets, they discovered that the chromosomes are actually very fluid, almost liquid, outside the phases of cell division.explains the CNRS in a press release.

To date, chromosomes were represented as tangled, like balls of wool, and forming a sort of gel. Recent work published in the journal Science (New window) (in English) paint a different picture. Rather, they would be fluid, able to move and reorganize freely without constraint from other constituent elements in the nucleus.

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To arrive at this observation, Dr. Antoine Coulon of the Institut Curie and his colleagues attached magnetic nanoparticles to a small portion of the chromosome of a living cell in order to then stretch it and exert different intensities of forces on it, thanks to the attraction of a micromagnet.

Using this approach, the teams have succeeded, for the very first time in a living cell, in measuring the response of a chromosome to external forces.notes the press release

This experiment showed that the scale of forces naturally exerted in the nucleus, for example by DNA-replicating enzymes, is sufficient to alter the conformation of the chromosome.

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An important discovery

This new knowledge is of great importance since, until today, our understanding of the physical principles that organize the genome in the nucleus has been limited by the lack of tools to directly exert and measure forces on chromosomes and probe their material nature.

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The approach developed by the French team now makes it possible to do so. It has made it possible to observe viscoelastic displacements of chromosomes over micrometers, in a few minutes, in response to external forces.

The technique thus makes it possible tobring new elements of understanding on biological processes, on the biophysics of the chromosome and on the organization of the genome. In addition, it opens up new research perspectives in areas ranging from chromosome mechanics to genome functions.

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