Physical Nature of Chromatin in the Nucleus

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2021 May 3;13(5):a040675. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a040675.


Genomic information is encoded on long strands of DNA, which are folded into chromatin and stored in a tiny nucleus. Nuclear chromatin is a negatively charged polymer composed of DNA, histones, and various nonhistone proteins. Because of its highly charged nature, chromatin structure varies greatly depending on the surrounding environment (e.g., cations, molecular crowding, etc.). New technologies to capture chromatin in living cells have been developed over the past 10 years. Our view on chromatin organization has drastically shifted from a regular and static one to a more variable and dynamic one. Chromatin forms numerous compact dynamic domains that act as functional units of the genome in higher eukaryotic cells and locally appear liquid-like. By changing DNA accessibility, these domains can govern various functions. Based on new evidences from versatile genomics and advanced imaging studies, we discuss the physical nature of chromatin in the crowded nuclear environment and how it is regulated.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • DNA Packaging*
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Molecular Conformation*


  • Chromatin