How eukaryotic chromosomes fold inside the nucleus is an age-old question that remains unanswered today. Early biochemical and microscopic studies revealed the existence of chromatin domains and loops as a pervasive feature of interphase chromosomes, but the biological implications of such organizational features were obscure. Genome-wide analysis of pair-wise chromatin interactions using chromatin conformation capture (3C)-based techniques has shed new light on the organization of chromosomes in interphase nuclei. Particularly, the finding of cell-type invariant, evolutionarily conserved topologically associating domains (TADs) in a broad spectrum of cell types has provided a new molecular framework for the study of animal development and human diseases. Here, we review recent progress in characterization of such chromatin domains and delineation of mechanisms of their formation in animal cells.
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