Quantitative imaging of chromatin decompaction in living cells

Mol Biol Cell. 2018 Jul 15;29(13):1763-1777. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E17-11-0648. Epub 2018 May 17.


Chromatin organization is highly dynamic and regulates transcription. Upon transcriptional activation, chromatin is remodeled and referred to as "open," but quantitative and dynamic data of this decompaction process are lacking. Here, we have developed a quantitative high resolution-microscopy assay in living yeast cells to visualize and quantify chromatin dynamics using the GAL7-10-1 locus as a model system. Upon transcriptional activation of these three clustered genes, we detect an increase of the mean distance across this locus by >100 nm. This decompaction is linked to active transcription but is not sensitive to the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A or to deletion of the histone acetyl transferase Gcn5. In contrast, the deletion of SNF2 (encoding the ATPase of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex) or the deactivation of the histone chaperone complex FACT lead to a strongly reduced decompaction without significant effects on transcriptional induction in FACT mutants. Our findings are consistent with nucleosome remodeling and eviction activities being major contributors to chromatin reorganization during transcription but also suggest that transcription can occur in the absence of detectable decompaction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Biological Assay
  • Cell Survival
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Genetic Loci
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Open Reading Frames / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / cytology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes