Are SMC Complexes Loop Extruding Factors? Linking Theory With Fact

Bioessays. 2019 Jan;41(1):e1800182. doi: 10.1002/bies.201800182. Epub 2018 Dec 3.


The extreme length of chromosomal DNA requires organizing mechanisms to both promote functional genetic interactions and ensure faithful chromosome segregation when cells divide. Microscopy and genome-wide contact frequency analyses indicate that intra-chromosomal looping of DNA is a primary pathway of chromosomal organization during all stages of the cell cycle. DNA loop extrusion has emerged as a unifying model for how chromosome loops are formed in cis in different genomic contexts and cell cycle stages. The highly conserved family of SMC complexes have been found to be required for DNA cis-looping and have been suggested to be the enzymatic core of loop extruding machines. Here, the current body of evidence available for the in vivo and in vitro action of SMC complexes is discussed and compared to the predictions made by the loop extrusion model. How SMC complexes may differentially act on chromatin to generate DNA loops and how they could work to generate the dynamic and functionally appropriate organization of DNA in cells is explored.

Keywords: HAWK; KITE; SMC complexes; chromosome structure; loop extrusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaea / metabolism
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Chromatin / ultrastructure
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Eukaryota / metabolism
  • Humans


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • SMC protein, Bacteria
  • DNA