Structure and dynamics of interphase chromosomes

PLoS Comput Biol. 2008 Aug 22;4(8):e1000153. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000153.


During interphase chromosomes decondense, but fluorescent in situ hybridization experiments reveal the existence of distinct territories occupied by individual chromosomes inside the nuclei of most eukaryotic cells. We use computer simulations to show that the existence and stability of territories is a kinetic effect that can be explained without invoking an underlying nuclear scaffold or protein-mediated interactions between DNA sequences. In particular, we show that the experimentally observed territory shapes and spatial distances between marked chromosome sites for human, Drosophila, and budding yeast chromosomes can be reproduced by a parameter-free minimal model of decondensing chromosomes. Our results suggest that the observed interphase structure and dynamics are due to generic polymer effects: confined Brownian motion conserving the local topological state of long chain molecules and segregation of mutually unentangled chains due to topological constraints.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / physiology
  • Chromosome Banding
  • Chromosomes / physiology*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interphase / physiology*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Weight
  • Nuclear Matrix / genetics
  • Nuclear Matrix / metabolism
  • Phase Transition*
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Polymers / metabolism
  • Saccharomycetales / genetics
  • Saccharomycetales / metabolism
  • Thermodynamics


  • Chromatin
  • Polymers