Mitotic chromosome structure: reproducibility of folding and symmetry between sister chromatids

Biophys J. 2009 Feb 18;96(4):1617-28. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2008.10.051.


Mitotic chromosome structure and pathways of mitotic condensation remain unknown. The limited amount of structural data on mitotic chromosome structure makes it impossible to distinguish between several mutually conflicting models. Here we used a Chinese hamster ovary cell line with three different lac operator-tagged vector insertions distributed over an approximately 1 microm chromosome arm region to determine positioning reproducibility, long-range correlation in large-scale chromatin folding, and sister chromatid symmetry in minimally perturbed, metaphase chromosomes. The three-dimensional positions of these lac operator-tagged spots, stained with lac repressor, were measured in isolated metaphase chromosomes relative to the central chromatid axes labeled with antibodies to topoisomerase II. Longitudinal, but not axial, positioning of spots was reproducible but showed intrinsic variability, up to approximately 300 nm, between sister chromatids. Spot positions on the same chromatid were uncorrelated, and no correlation or symmetry between the positions of corresponding spots on sister chromatids was detectable, showing the absence of highly ordered, long-range chromatin folding over tens of mega-basepairs. Our observations are in agreement with the absence of any regular, reproducible helical, last level of chromosome folding, but remain consistent with any hierarchical folding model in which irregularity in folding exists at one or multiple levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • CHO Cells
  • Chromatids / genetics
  • Chromatids / physiology*
  • Chromatids / ultrastructure
  • Chromosomes, Mammalian / physiology*
  • Chromosomes, Mammalian / ultrastructure*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / immunology
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / immunology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Lac Operon / genetics
  • Metaphase / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Repressor Proteins


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II