Dynamic asymmetry and why chromatin defies simple physical definitions

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2021 Jun;70:116-122. doi: 10.1016/j.ceb.2021.02.011. Epub 2021 Apr 1.


Recent experiments have demonstrated a nucleus where chromatin is molded into stable, interwoven loops. Yet, many of the proteins, which shape chromatin structure, bind only transiently. In those brief encounters, these dynamic proteins temporarily crosslink chromatin loops. While, on the average, individual crosslinks do not persist, in the aggregate, they are sufficient to create and maintain stable chromatin domains. Owing to the asymmetry in size and speed of molecules involved, this type of organization imparts unique biophysical properties-the slow (chromatin) component can exhibit gel-like behaviors, whereas the fast (protein) component allows domains to respond with liquid-like characteristics.

Keywords: Chromatin; Phase separation; Polymer gel; Viscoelasticity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Cell Nucleus
  • Chromatin*
  • Chromosomes*


  • Chromatin