The formation and sequestration of heterochromatin during development

Delivered on 7 September 2012 at the 37th FEBS Congress in Sevilla, Spain

Authors

  • Adriana Gonzalez-Sandoval,

    1. Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
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  • Benjamin D. Towbin,

    1. Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Molecular Cell Biology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
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  • Susan M. Gasser

    Corresponding author
    1. Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
    • Correspondence

      S. M. Gasser, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Maulbeerstrasse 66, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland

      Fax: +41 61 697 3976

      Tel: +41 61 697 7255

      E-mail: susan.gasser@fmi.ch

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Abstract

Chromatin is not randomly positioned in the nucleus, but is distributed in subdomains based on its degree of compaction and transcriptional status. Recent studies have shed light on the logic of chromatin distribution, showing that tissue-specific promoters drive distinct patterns of gene positioning during cell-type differentiation. In addition, the sequestration of heterochromatin at the nuclear envelope has been found to depend on lamin and lamin-associated proteins. On the chromatin side, H3K9 monomethylation, dimethylation and trimethylation were shown to be the critical signals for perinuclear anchoring in worm embryonic nuclei. Downregulation of an equivalent histone methyltransferase, G9a, in human cells has a similar effect. In worms, the sequestration of the terminal methyltransferase by repressed chromatin may facilitate the propagation of a heterochromatin compartment, much as the sequestration of the silent information regulatory complex does at telomeric foci in budding yeast. These results argue for conserved logic in eukaryotic nuclear organization.

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