3D Structure of the human genome: order in randomness

Chromosoma. 2002 Dec;111(5):321-31. doi: 10.1007/s00412-002-0210-8. Epub 2002 Sep 18.


A complex study of the spatial arrangement of different genetic elements (genes, centromeres and chromosomal domains) in the cell nucleus is presented and the principles of this arrangement are discussed. We show that the radial location of genetic elements in the three-dimensional (3D) space between the center of the nucleus and the nuclear membrane is element specific and dependent on the position of the element on the chromosome. In contrast, mutual angular positioning of both homologous and heterologous genetic elements is, in the majority of cases, random. In several cases, tethering of heterologous genetic elements was observed. This close proximity of specific loci may be responsible for their mutual rearrangement and the development of cancer. Comparison of our results with transcriptome maps shows that the nuclear location of chromosomal domains with highly expressed genes is more central when compared with chromosomes with low expression. The higher-order chromatin structure is strikingly similar in various human cell types, which correlates with the fact that the profiles of gene expression are also similar.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / genetics*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*


  • DNA