The chromatin architecture is constantly changing because of cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation and changes in the expression profile during gene activation or silencing. Unravelling the changes that occur in the chromatin structure during these processes has been a topic of interest for many years. It is known that gene activation of large gene loci is thought to occur by means of an active looping mechanism. It was also shown for the β-globin locus that the gene promoter interacts with an active chromatin hub by means of an active looping mechanism. This means that the locus changes in three-dimensional (3D) nuclear volume and chromatin shape. As a means of visualizing and measuring these dynamic changes in chromatin structure of the β-globin locus, we used a 3D DNA-FISH method in combination with 3D image acquisition to volume render fluorescent signals into 3D objects. These 3D chromatin structures were geometrically analysed, and results prior to and after gene activation were quantitatively compared. Confocal and superresolution imaging revealed that the inactive locus occurs in several different conformations. These conformations change in shape and surface structure upon cell differentiation into a more folded and rounded structure that has a substantially smaller size and volume. These physical measurements represent the first non-biochemical evidence that, upon gene activation, an actively transcribing chromatin hub is formed by means of additional chromatin looping.

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Keywords 3D structured illumination microscopy, Chromatin dynamics, Long-range chromatin interaction, Super-resolution
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Journal Journal of Cell Science
van de Corput, M.P.C, de Boer, E, Knoch, T.A, van Cappellen, W.A, Quintanilla, A, Ferrand, L, & Grosveld, F.G. (2012). Super-resolution imaging reveals three-dimensional folding dynamics of the β-globin locus upon gene activation. Journal of Cell Science, 125(19), 4630–4639. doi:10.1242/jcs.108522