Between form and function: the complexity of genome folding

Hum Mol Genet. 2017 Oct 1;26(R2):R208-R215. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddx306.


It has been known for over a century that chromatin is not randomly distributed within the nucleus. However, the question of how DNA is folded and the influence of such folding on nuclear processes remain topics of intensive current research. A longstanding, unanswered question is whether nuclear organization is simply a reflection of nuclear processes such as transcription and replication, or whether chromatin is folded by independent mechanisms and this per se encodes function? Evidence is emerging that both may be true. Here, using the α-globin gene cluster as an illustrative model, we provide an overview of the most recent insights into the layers of genome organization across different scales and how this relates to gene activity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / physiology
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Replication / genetics
  • Genome / genetics*
  • Genome / physiology*
  • Genome Components / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Multigene Family / genetics
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology
  • alpha-Globins / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • alpha-Globins
  • DNA