The organization of the genome in the nucleus and the interactions of genes with their regulatory elements are key features of transcriptional control and their disruption can cause disease. Here we report a genome-wide method, genome architecture mapping (GAM), for measuring chromatin contacts and other features of three-dimensional chromatin topology on the basis of sequencing DNA from a large collection of thin nuclear sections. We apply GAM to mouse embryonic stem cells and identify enrichment for specific interactions between active genes and enhancers across very large genomic distances using a mathematical model termed SLICE (statistical inference of co-segregation). GAM also reveals an abundance of three-way contacts across the genome, especially between regions that are highly transcribed or contain super-enhancers, providing a level of insight into genome architecture that, owing to the technical limitations of current technologies, has previously remained unattainable. Furthermore, GAM highlights a role for gene-expression-specific contacts in organizing the genome in mammalian nuclei. View full text

Mutations in mtDNA lead to muscular and neurological diseases and are linked to aging. The most frequent aberrancy is the “common deletion” that involves a 4,977-bp region flanked by 13-bp repeats. To investigate the basis of this deletion, we developed a single-molecule mtDNA combing method. The analysis of replicating mtDNA molecules provided in vivo evidence in support of the asymmetric mode of replication. Furthermore, we observed frequent fork stalling at the junction of the common deletion, suggesting that impaired replication triggers the formation of this toxic lesion. In parallel experiments, we employed mito-TALENs to induce breaks in distinct loci of the mitochondrial genome and found that breaks adjacent to the 5′ repeat trigger the common deletion. Interestingly, this process was mediated by the mitochondrial replisome independent of canonical DSB repair. Altogether, our data underscore a unique replication-dependent repair pathway that leads to the mitochondrial common deletion.

X-chromosome inactivation (XCI) involves major reorganization of the X chromosome as it becomes silent and heterochromatic. During female mammalian development, XCI is triggered by upregulation of the non-coding Xist RNA from one of the two X chromosomes. Xist coats the chromosome in cis and induces silencing of almost all genes via its A-repeat region, although some genes (constitutive escapees) avoid silencing in most cell types, and others (facultative escapees) escape XCI only in specific contexts. A role for Xist in organizing the inactive X (Xi) chromosome has been proposed. Recent chromosome conformation capture approaches have revealed global loss of local structure on the Xi chromosome and formation of large mega-domains, separated by a region containing the DXZ4 macrosatellite. However, the molecular architecture of the Xi chromosome, in both the silent and expressed regions, remains unclear. Here we investigate the structure, chromatin accessibility and expression status of the mouse Xi chromosome in highly polymorphic clonal neural progenitors (NPCs) and embryonic stem cells. We demonstrate a crucial role for Xist and the DXZ4-containing boundary in shaping Xi chromosome structure using allele-specific genome-wide chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C) analysis, an assay for transposase-accessible chromatin with high throughput sequencing (ATAC–seq) and RNA sequencing. Deletion of the boundary disrupts mega-domain formation, and induction of Xist RNA initiates formation of the boundary and the loss of DNA accessibility. We also show that in NPCs, the Xi chromosome lacks active/inactive compartments and topologically associating domains (TADs), except around genes that escape XCI. Escapee gene clusters display TAD-like structures and retain DNA accessibility at promoter-proximal and CTCF-binding sites. Furthermore, altered patterns of facultative escape genes in different neural progenitor clones are associated with the presence of different TAD-like structures after XCI. These findings suggest a key role for transcription and CTCF in the formation of TADs in the context of the Xi chromosome in neural progenitors.

Comparative mapping of 5S and 45S rDNA by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) technique is an excellent tool to determine cytogenetic relationships among closely related species.

Metazoan genomes are spatially organized at multiple scales, from packaging of DNA around individual nucleosomes to segregation of whole chromosomes into distinct territories. At the intermediate scale of kilobases to megabases, which encompasses the sizes of genes, gene clusters and regulatory domains, the three-dimensional (3D) organization of DNA is implicated in multiple gene regulatory mechanisms, but understanding this organization remains a challenge. At this scale, the genome is partitioned into domains of different epigenetic states that are essential for regulating gene expression. Here we investigate the 3D organization of chromatin in different epigenetic states using super-resolution imaging. We classified genomic domains in Drosophila cells into transcriptionally active, inactive or Polycomb-repressed states, and observed distinct chromatin organizations for each state. All three types of chromatin domains exhibit power-law scaling between their physical sizes in 3D and their domain lengths, but each type has a distinct scaling exponent. Polycomb-repressed domains show the densest packing and most intriguing chromatin folding behaviour, in which chromatin packing density increases with domain length. Distinct from the self-similar organization displayed by transcriptionally active and inactive chromatin, the Polycomb-repressed domains are characterized by a high degree of chromatin intermixing within the domain. Moreover, compared to inactive domains, Polycomb-repressed domains spatially exclude neighbouring active chromatin to a much stronger degree. Computational modelling and knockdown experiments suggest that reversible chromatin interactions mediated by Polycomb-group proteins play an important role in these unique packaging properties of the repressed chromatin. Taken together, our super-resolution images reveal distinct chromatin packaging for different epigenetic states at the kilobase-to-megabase scale, a length scale that is directly relevant to genome regulation.

The 5S and 45S rDNA sites are useful chromosome landmarks and can provide valuable information about karyotype evolution and species interrelationships. In this study, we employed fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to determine the number and chromosomal location of 5S and 45S rDNA loci in 8 diploid Cucumis species. Two oligonucleotide painting probes specific for the rDNA-bearing chromosomes in C. melo were hybridized to other Cucumis species in order to investigate the homeologies among the rDNA-carrying chromosomes in Cucumis species. The analyzed diploid species showed 3 types of rDNA distribution patterns, which provided clear cytogenetic evidence on the divergence between C. melo and wild diploid African Cucumis species. The present results not only show species interrelationships in the genus Cucumis, but the rDNA FISH patterns can also be used as cytological markers for the discrimination of closely related species. The data will be helpful for breeders to choose the most suitable species from various wild species for improvement of cultivated melon.

Chromosome-specific painting is a powerful technique in molecular cytogenetic and genome research. We developed an oligonucleotide (oligo)-based chromosome painting technique in cucumber (Cucumis sativus) that will be applicable in any plant species with a sequenced genome. Oligos specific to a single chromosome of cucumber were identified using a newly developed bioinformatic pipeline and then massively synthesized de novo in parallel. The synthesized oligos were amplified and labeled with biotin or digoxigenin for use in fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). We developed three different probes with each containing 23,000–27,000 oligos. These probes spanned 8.3–17 Mb of DNA on targeted cucumber chromosomes and had the densities of 1.5–3.2 oligos per kilobases. These probes produced FISH signals on a single cucumber chromosome and were used to paint homeologous chromosomes in other Cucumis species diverged from cucumber for up to 12 million years. The bulked oligo probes allowed us to track a single chromosome in early stages during meiosis. We were able to precisely map the pairing between cucumber chromosome 7 and chromosome 1 of Cucumis hystrix in a F1 hybrid. These two homeologous chromosomes paired in 71% of prophase I cells but only 25% of metaphase I cells, which may provide an explanation of the higher recombination rates compared to the chiasma frequencies between homeologous chromosomes reported in plant hybrids.

The 4D organization of the interphase nucleus, or the 4D Nucleome (4DN), reflects a dynamical interaction between 3D genome structure and function and its relationship to phenotype. We present initial analyses of the human 4DN, capturing genome-wide structure using chromosome conformation capture and 3D imaging, and function using RNA-sequencing. We introduce a quantitative index that measures underlying topological stability of a genomic region. Our results show that structural features of genomic regions correlate with function with surprising persistence over time. Furthermore, constructing genome-wide gene-level contact maps aided in identifying gene pairs with high potential for coregulation and colocalization in a manner consistent with expression via transcription factories. We additionally use 2D phase planes to visualize patterns in 4DN data. Finally, we evaluated gene pairs within a circadian gene module using 3D imaging, and found periodicity in the movement of clock circadian regulator and period circadian clock 2 relative to each other that followed a circadian rhythm and entrained with their expression.

Oligonucleotide microarrays allow the production of complex custom oligonucleotide libraries for nucleic acid detection–based applications such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). We have developed a PCR-free method to make single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) fluorescent probes through an intermediate RNA library. A double-stranded oligonucleotide library is amplified by transcription to create an RNA library. Next, dye- or hapten-conjugate primers are used to reverse transcribe the RNA to produce a dye-labeled cDNA library. Finally the RNA is hydrolyzed under alkaline conditions to obtain the single-stranded fluorescent probes library. Starting from unique oligonucleotide library constructs, we present two methods to produce single-stranded probe libraries. The two methods differ in the type of reverse transcription (RT) primer, the incorporation of fluorescent dye, and the purification of fluorescent probes. The first method employs dye-labeled reverse transcription primers to produce multiple differentially single-labeled probe subsets from one microarray library. The fluorescent probes are purified from excess primers by oligonucleotide-bead capture. The second method uses an RNA:DNA chimeric primer and amino-modified nucleotides to produce amino-allyl probes. The excess primers and RNA are hydrolyzed under alkaline conditions, followed by probe purification and labeling with amino-reactive dyes. The fluorescent probes created by the combination of transcription and reverse transcription can be used for FISH and to detect any RNA and DNA targets via hybridization.