Structural basis for the preservation of a subset of topologically associating domains in interphase chromosomes upon cohesin depletion

Elife. 2024 Mar 19:12:RP88564. doi: 10.7554/eLife.88564.


Compartment formation in interphase chromosomes is a result of spatial segregation between euchromatin and heterochromatin on a few megabase pairs (Mbp) scale. On the sub-Mbp scales, topologically associating domains (TADs) appear as interacting domains along the diagonal in the ensemble averaged Hi-C contact map. Hi-C experiments showed that most of the TADs vanish upon deleting cohesin, while the compartment structure is maintained, and perhaps even enhanced. However, closer inspection of the data reveals that a non-negligible fraction of TADs is preserved (P-TADs) after cohesin loss. Imaging experiments show that, at the single-cell level, TAD-like structures are present even without cohesin. To provide a structural basis for these findings, we first used polymer simulations to show that certain TADs with epigenetic switches across their boundaries survive after depletion of loops. More importantly, the three-dimensional structures show that many of the P-TADs have sharp physical boundaries. Informed by the simulations, we analyzed the Hi-C maps (with and without cohesin) in mouse liver and human colorectal carcinoma cell lines, which affirmed that epigenetic switches and physical boundaries (calculated using the predicted 3D structures using the data-driven HIPPS method that uses Hi-C as the input) explain the origin of the P-TADs. Single-cell structures display TAD-like features in the absence of cohesin that are remarkably similar to the findings in imaging experiments. Some P-TADs, with physical boundaries, are relevant to the retention of enhancer-promoter/promoter-promoter interactions. Overall, our study shows that preservation of a subset of TADs upon removing cohesin is a robust phenomenon that is valid across multiple cell lines.

Keywords: TAD features without cohesin; enhancer–promoter interactions; none; physics of living systems; preserved TADs; single-cell Hi-C.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin*
  • Chromosomes
  • Cohesins*
  • Heterochromatin
  • Humans
  • Interphase
  • Mice


  • Chromatin
  • Cohesins
  • Heterochromatin

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE104334
  • GEO/GSE93431
  • GEO/GSE178982