Constitutive heterochromatin mainly consists of different classes of satellite DNAs and is defined as a transcriptionally inactive chromatin that remains compact throughout the cell cycle. The aim of this work was to investigate the level of condensation, methylation and transcriptional status of centromeric (alphoid DNA) and pericentromeric satellites (human satellite 3, HS3) in tissues (lymphocytes, placenta cells) and in cultured primary (MRC5, VH-10, AT2Sp) and malignant (A431) cells. We found that alphoid DNA remained condensed and heavily methylated in all the cell types. The HS3 of chromosome 1 (HS3-1) but not of chromosome 9 (HS3-9) was strongly decondensed and demethylated in A431 cells. The same observation was made for aged embryonic lung (MRC5) and juvenile foreskin (VH-10) fibroblasts obtained at late passages (32(nd) and 23(rd), respectively). Decondensation was also found in ataxia telangiectasia AT2Sp fibroblasts at the 16(th) passage. One of the manifestations of the disease is premature aging. The level of HS3-1 decondensation was higher in aged primary fibroblasts as compared to A431. The HS3-1 extended into the territory of neighbouring chromosomes. An RT-PCR product was detected in A431 and senescent MRC5 fibroblasts using primers specific for HS3-1. The RNA was polyadenylated and transcribed from the reverse chain. Our results demonstrate the involvement of satellite DNA in associations between human chromosomes and intermingling of chromosome territories. The invading satellite DNA can undergo decondensation to a certain level. This process is accompanied by demethylation and transcription.
Copyright (c) 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.