Despite all the efforts the three-dimensional higher-order architecture and dynamics in the cell nucleus are still debated. The regulation of genes, their transcription, replication, as well as differentiation in Eukarya is, however, closely connected to this architecture and dynamics. Here, an evaluation and review framework is setup to investigate the folding of a 30 nm chromatin fibre into chromosome territories by comparing computer simulations of two different chromatin topologies to experiments: The Multi-Loop-Subcompartment (MLS) model, in which small loops form rosettes connected by chromatin linkers, and the Random-Walk/Giant-Loop (RW/GL) model, in which large loops are attached to a flexible non-protein backbone, were simulated for various loop, rosette, and linker sizes. The 30 nm chromatin fibre was modelled as a polymer chain with stretching, bending, and excluded volume interactions. A spherical boundary potential simulated the confinement by other chromosomes and the nuclear envelope. Monte Carlo and Brownian Dynamics methods were applied to generate chain configurations at thermodynamic equilibrium. Both the MLS and the RW/GL models form chromosome territories, with different morphologies: The MLS rosettes form distinct subchromosomal domains, compatible in size as those from light microscopic observations. In contrast, the big RW/GL loops lead to a more homogeneous chromatin distribution. Only the MLS model agrees with the low overlap of chromosomes, their arms, and subchromosomal domains found experimentally. A review of experimental spatial distance measurements between genomic markers labelled by FISH as a function of their genomic separation from different publications and comparison to simulated spatial distances also favours an MLS-like model with loops and linkers of 63 to 126 kbp. The chromatin folding topology also reduces the apparent persistence length of the chromatin fibre to a value significantly lower than the free solution persistence length, explaining the low persistence lengths found various experiments. The predicted large spaces between the chromatin fibres allow typically sized biological molecules to reach nearly every location in the nucleus by moderately obstructed diffusion and disagrees with the much simplified assumption that defined channels between territories for molecular transport as in the Interchromosomal Domain (ICD) hypothesis exist. All this is also in agreement with recent selective high-resolution chromosome interaction capture (T2C) experiments, the scaling behaviour of the DNA sequence, the dynamics of the chromatin fibre, the nuclear diffusion of molecules, as well as other experiments. In summary, this polymer simulation framework compared to experimental data clearly favours only a quasi-chromatin fibre forming a stable multi-loop aggregate/rosette like genome organization and dynamics whose local topology is tightly connected to the global morphology and dynamics of the cell nucleus.

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Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology

Knoch, T. (2018). Simulation of different three-dimensional polymer models of interphase chromosomes compared to experiments–an evaluation and review framework of the 3D genome organization. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. doi:10.1016/j.semcdb.2018.07.012