Using a genetic model, we present a high-resolution chromatin fiber analysis of transcriptionally active (Xa) and inactive (Xi) X chromosomes packaged into euchromatin and facultative heterochromatin. Our results show that gene promoters have an open chromatin structure that is enhanced upon transcriptional activation but the Xa and the Xi have similar overall 30 nm chromatin fiber structures. Therefore, the formation of facultative heterochromatin is dependent on factors that act at a level above the 30 nm fiber and transcription does not alter bulk chromatin fiber structures. However, large-scale chromatin structures on Xa are decondensed compared with the Xi and transcription inhibition is sufficient to promote large-scale chromatin compaction. We show a link between transcription and large-scale chromatin packaging independent of the bulk 30 nm chromatin fiber and propose that transcription, not the global compaction of 30 nm chromatin fibers, determines the cytological appearance of large-scale chromatin structures.
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