Biochemistry (Moscow) (v.83, #4)

This issue of Biochemistry (Moscow) is devoted to the cell nucleus and mechanisms of transcription regulation. Over the years, biochemical processes in the cell nucleus have been studied in isolation, outside the context of their spatial organization. Now it is clear that segregation of functional processes within a compartmentalized cell nucleus is very important for the implementation of basic genetic processes. The functional compartmentalization of the cell nucleus is closely related to the spatial organization of the genome, which in turn plays a key role in the operation of epigenetic mechanisms. In this issue of Biochemistry (Moscow), we present a selection of review articles covering the functional architecture of the eukaryotic cell nucleus, the mechanisms of genome folding, the role of stochastic processes in establishing 3D architecture of the genome, and the impact of genome spatial organization on transcription regulation.
Keywords: chromatin; cell nucleus; spatial organization of the genome; macromolecular crowding; functional compartmentalization of the cell nucleus; 3D genomics; regulation of transcription

Structural–Functional Domains of the Eukaryotic Genome by S. V. Razin; A. A. Gavrilov (302-312).
It is well known that DNA folding in the eukaryotic cell nucleus is tightly coupled with the operation of epigenetic mechanisms defining the repertoires of the genes expressed in different types of cells. To understand these mechanisms, it is important to know how DNA is packaged in chromatin. About 30 years ago a hypothesis was formulated, according to which epigenetic mechanisms operate not at the level of individual genes, but rather groups of genes localized in structurally and functionally isolated genomic segments that were called structural and functional domains. The question of what exactly these domains constitute has been re-examined multiple times as our knowledge of principles of chromatin folding has changed. In this review, we discuss structural and functional genomic domains in light of the current model of interphase chromosome organization based on the results of analysis of spatial proximity between remote genomic elements.
Keywords: chromatin; cell nucleus; topologically associating domain; Hi-C; noncoding RNA; gene activation

The 4D Nucleome: Genome Compartmentalization in an Evolutionary Context by T. Cremer; M. Cremer; C. Cremer (313-325).
4D nucleome research aims to understand the impact of nuclear organization in space and time on nuclear functions, such as gene expression patterns, chromatin replication, and the maintenance of genome integrity. In this review we describe evidence that the origin of 4D genome compartmentalization can be traced back to the prokaryotic world. In cell nuclei of animals and plants chromosomes occupy distinct territories, built up from ~1 Mb chromatin domains, which in turn are composed of smaller chromatin subdomains and also form larger chromatin domain clusters. Microscopic evidence for this higher order chromatin landscape was strengthened by chromosome conformation capture studies, in particular Hi-C. This approach demonstrated ~1 Mb sized, topologically associating domains in mammalian cell nuclei separated by boundaries. Mutations, which destroy boundaries, can result in developmental disorders and cancer. Nucleosomes appeared first as tetramers in the Archaea kingdom and later evolved to octamers built up each from two H2A, two H2B, two H3, and two H4 proteins. Notably, nucleosomes were lost during the evolution of the Dinoflagellata phylum. Dinoflagellate chromosomes remain condensed during the entire cell cycle, but their chromosome architecture differs radically from the architecture of other eukaryotes. In summary, the conservation of fundamental features of higher order chromatin arrangements throughout the evolution of metazoan animals suggests the existence of conserved, but still unknown mechanism(s) controlling this architecture. Notwithstanding this conservation, a comparison of metazoans and protists also demonstrates species-specific structural and functional features of nuclear organization.
Keywords: 4D nucleome; nuclear architecture; evolution; chromatin domains; topologically associating domains (TADs); genome compartmentalization

The view of the cell nucleus as a crowded system of colloid particles and that chromosomes are giant self-avoiding polymers is stimulating rapid advances in our understanding of its structure and activities, thanks to concepts and experimental methods from colloid, polymer, soft matter, and nano sciences and to increased computational power for simulating macromolecules and polymers. This review summarizes current understanding of some characteristics of the molecular environment in the nucleus, of how intranuclear compartments are formed, and of how the genome is highly but precisely compacted, and underlines the crucial, subtle, and sometimes unintuitive effects on structures and reactions of entropic forces caused by the high concentration of macromolecules in the nucleus.
Keywords: cell nucleus; macromolecular crowding; confinement; entropic forces; phase separation; chromosomes

Drosophila polytene chromosomes are widely used as a model of eukaryotic interphase chromosomes. The most noticeable feature of polytene chromosome is transverse banding associated with alternation of dense stripes (dark or black bands) and light diffuse areas that encompass alternating less compact gray bands and interbands visible with an electron microscope. In recent years, several approaches have been developed to predict location of morphological structures of polytene chromosomes based on the distribution of proteins on the molecular map of Drosophila genome. Comparison of these structures with the results of analysis of the three-dimensional chromatin organization by the Hi-C method indicates that the morphology of polytene chromosomes represents direct visualization of the interphase nucleus spatial organization into topological domains. Compact black bands correspond to the extended topological domains of inactive chromatin, while interbands are the barriers between the adjacent domains. Here, we discuss the prospects of using polytene chromosomes to study mechanisms of spatial organization of interphase chromosomes, as well as their dynamics and evolution.
Keywords: polytene chromosomes; topologically associating domain; TADs; spatial organization of interphase chromosome; 3D chromatin organization; interband; Hi-C

The Role of Chromosome–Nuclear Envelope Attachments in 3D Genome Organization by I. V. Sharakhov; S. M. Bondarenko; G. N. Artemov; A. V. Onufriev (350-358).
Chromosomes are intricately folded and packaged in the cell nucleus and interact with the nuclear envelope. This complex nuclear architecture has a profound effect on how the genome works and how the cells function. The main goal of review is to highlight recent studies on the effect of chromosome–nuclear envelope interactions on chromatin folding and function in the nucleus. The data obtained suggest that chromosome–nuclear envelope attachments are important for the organization of nuclear architecture in various organisms. A combination of experimental cell biology methods with computational modeling offers a unique opportunity to explore the fundamental relationships between different aspects of 3D genome organization in greater details. This powerful interdisciplinary approach could reveal how the organization and function of the genome in the nuclear space is affected by the chromosome–nuclear envelope attachments and will enable the development of novel approaches to regulate gene expression.
Keywords: chromosomes; Drosophila ; nuclear architecture; nuclear envelope; mosquitoes; modeling

Nuclear lamina is a protein meshwork composed of lamins and lamin-associated proteins that lines the nuclear envelope from the inside and forms repressive transcription compartment. The review presents current data on the contribution of nuclear lamina to the repression of genes located in this compartment and on the mechanisms of chromatin attachment to the nuclear envelope.
Keywords: nuclear lamina; lamina-associated domain; nuclear envelope; nuclear periphery; repression

The review is devoted to unsolvable problems of biology. 1) Problems unsolvable due to stochastic mutations occurring during DNA replication that make it impossible to create two identical organisms or even two identical complex cells (Sverdlov, E. D. (2009) Biochemistry (Moscow), 74, 939–944) and to “defeat” cancer. 2) Problems unsolvable due to multiple interactions in complex systems leading to the appearance of unpredictable emergent properties that prevent establishment of unambiguous relationships between the genetic architecture and phenotypic manifestation of the genome and make impossible to predict with certainty responses of the organism, its parts, or pathological processes to external factors. 3) Problems unsolvable because of the uncertainty principle and observer effect in biology, due to which it is impossible to obtain adequate information about cells in their tissue microenvironment by isolating and analyzing individual cells. In particular, we cannot draw conclusions on the properties of stem cells in their niches based on the properties of stem cell cultures. A strategy is proposed for constructing the pattern most closely approximated to the relationship of genotypes with their phenotypes by designing networks of intermediate phenotypes (endophenotypes).
Keywords: stochastic mutations; emergent properties; heterogeneity; biological uncertainty principle; phenotype; genotype; selected function

Genetic and Epigenetic Mechanisms of β-Globin Gene Switching by O. V. Iarovaia; A. P. Kovina; N. V. Petrova; S. V. Razin; E. S. Ioudinkova; Y. S. Vassetzky; S. V. Ulianov (381-392).
Vertebrates have multiple forms of hemoglobin that differ in the composition of their polypeptide chains. During ontogenesis, the composition of these subunits changes. Genes encoding different α- and β-polypeptide chains are located in two multigene clusters on different chromosomes. Each cluster contains several genes that are expressed at different stages of ontogenesis. The phenomenon of stage-specific transcription of globin genes is referred to as globin gene switching. Mechanisms of expression switching, stage-specific activation, and repression of transcription of α- and β-globin genes are of interest from both theoretical and practical points of view. Alteration of balanced expression of globin genes, which usually occurs due to damage to adult β-globin genes, leads to development of severe diseases–hemoglobinopathies. In most cases, reactivation of the fetal hemoglobin gene in patients with β-thalassemia and sickle cell disease can reduce negative consequences of irreversible alterations of expression of the β-globin genes. This review focuses on the current state of research on genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying stage-specific switching of β-globin genes.
Keywords: α- and β-globin genes domains; hemoglobin switching; transcriptional regulation; spatial organization of chromatin

In this exciting era of “next-gen cytogenetics”, the use of novel molecular methods such as comparative genome hybridization and whole genome and whole exome sequencing becomes more and more common in clinics. This results in generation of large amounts of high-resolution patient-specific data and challenges the development of new approaches for interpretation of obtained information. Usually, interpretation of chromosomal rearrangements is focused on alterations of linear genome sequence, underestimating the role of spatial chromatin organization. In this article, we describe the main features of 3-dimentional genome organization, emphasizing their role in normal and pathological development. We highlight some tips to help physicians estimating the impact of chromosomal rearrangements on the patient phenotype. A separate section describes available tools that can be used to visualize and analyze human genome architecture.
Keywords: chromosomal rearrangements; 3-dimensional nuclear architecture; TAD; 3C; Hi-C; human congenital disorders

Effect of Environmental Factors on Nuclear Organization and Transformation of Human B Lymphocytes by F. B. Sall; D. Germini; A. P. Kovina; V. Ribrag; J. Wiels; A. O. Toure; O. V. Iarovaia; M. Lipinski; Y. Vassetzky (402-410).
Chromosomal translocations have long been known for their association with malignant transformation, particularly in hematopoietic disorders such as B-cell lymphomas. In addition to the physiological process of maturation, which creates double strand breaks in immunoglobulin gene loci, environmental factors including the Epstein–Barr and human immunodeficiency viruses, malaria-causing parasites (Plasmodium falciparum), and plant components (Euphorbia tirucalli latex) can trigger a reorganization of the nuclear architecture and DNA damage that together will facilitate the occurrence of deleterious chromosomal rearrangements.
Keywords: Burkitt lymphoma; EBV; HIV; Plasmodium falciparum ; Euphorbia tirucalli ; oncogenesis; nuclear organization

Protein–Protein Interactions in DNA Base Excision Repair by N. A. Moor; O. I. Lavrik (411-422).
The system of base excision repair (BER) ensures correction of the most abundant DNA damages in mammalian cells and plays an important role in maintaining genome stability. Enzymes and protein factors participate in the multistage BER in a coordinated fashion, which ensures repair efficiency. The suggested coordination mechanisms are based on formation of protein complexes stabilized via either direct or indirect DNA-mediated interactions. The results of investigation of direct interactions of the proteins participating in BER with each other and with other proteins are outlined in this review. The known protein partners and sites responsible for their interaction are presented for the main participants as well as quantitative characteristics of their affinity. Information on the mechanisms of regulation of protein–protein interactions mediated by DNA intermediates and posttranslational modification is presented. It can be suggested based on all available data that the multiprotein complexes are formed on chromatin independent of the DNA damage with the help of key regulators of the BER process – scaffold protein XRCC1 and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1. The composition of multiprotein complexes changes dynamically depending on the DNA damage and the stage of BER process.
Keywords: base excision repair; protein–protein interactions; DNA repair

Structure and Functions of the Mediator Complex by E. V. Putlyaev; A. N. Ibragimov; L. A. Lebedeva; P. G. Georgiev; Y. V. Shidlovskii (423-436).
Mediator is a key factor in the regulation of expression of RNA polymerase II-transcribed genes. Recent studies have shown that Mediator acts as a coordinator of transcription activation and participates in maintaining chromatin architecture in the cell nucleus. In this review, we present current concepts on the structure and functions of Mediator.
Keywords: Mediator; transcription; RNA polymerase; chromatin; enhancer; promoter

The data on forum domains formed by DNA double-strand break (DSB) hotspots are reviewed including forum domain identification by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, whole genome mapping of these domains using deep sequencing strategies, analysis of gene expression in forum domains, and binding of nuclear proteins to their boundaries. Earlier unpublished data by the authors are presented. The “piano playing” hypothesis is suggested based on coordinated active transcription in some of the forum domains and coordinated silencing in the majority of them. The data on the DSB hotspots in human ribosomal DNA gene clusters and their possible association with chromosomal translocations are presented. These clusters are the most actively transcribed DNA regions in cells, as well as the most fragile sites in human chromosomes. The need to revise the available data on DNase I-hypersensitive sites in various genomes, including endogenous DNA breaks of different nature, is discussed.
Keywords: endogenous DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) hotspots; forum domains; epigenetics; coordinated expression; PARP1; HNRNPA2B1; chromosomal silencing; 4C; inter-chromosomal contacts; rDNA genes; translocations; DNase I-hypersensitive sites; H3K4me3; H3K27ac; CTCF

Who Needs This Junk, or Genomic Dark Matter by O. I. Podgornaya; D. I. Ostromyshenskii; N. I. Enukashvily (450-466).
Centromeres (CEN), pericentromeric regions (periCEN), and subtelomeric regions (subTel) comprise the areas of constitutive heterochromatin (HChr). Tandem repeats (TRs or satellite DNA) are the main components of HChr forming no less than 10% of the mouse and human genome. HChr is assembled within distinct structures in the interphase nuclei of many species–chromocenters. In this review, the main classes of HChr repeat sequences are considered in the order of their number increase in the sequencing reads of the mouse chromocenters (ChrmC). TRs comprise ~70% of ChrmC occupying the first place. Non-LTR (-long terminal repeat) retroposons (mainly LINE, long interspersed nuclear element) are the next (~11%), and endogenous retroviruses (ERV; LTR-containing) are in the third position (~9%). HChr is not enriched with ERV in comparison with the whole genome, but there are differences in distribution of certain elements: while MaLR-like elements (ERV3) are dominant in the whole genome, intracisternal A-particles and corresponding LTR (ERV2) are prevalent in HChr. Most of LINE in ChrmC is represented by the 2-kb fragment at the end of the 2nd open reading frame and its flanking regions. Almost all tandem repeats classified as CEN or periCEN are contained in ChrmC. Our previous classification revealed 60 new mouse TR families with 29 of them being absent in ChrmC, which indicates their location on chromosome arms. TR transcription is necessary for maintenance of heterochromatic status of the HChr genome part. A burst of TR transcription is especially important in embryogenesis and other cases of radical changes in the cell program, including carcinogenesis. The recently discovered mechanism of epigenetic regulation with noncoding sequences transcripts, long noncoding RNA, and its role in embryogenesis and pluripotency maintenance is discussed.
Keywords: heterochromatin; sequencing; tandem repeats; dispersed repeats; transposable elements; retrotransposons; long noncoding RNA; in situ hybridization