Distinctive higher-order chromatin structure at mammalian centromeres

N Gilbert, J Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The structure of the higher-order chromatin fiber has not been defined in detail. We have used a novel approach based on sucrose gradient centrifugation to compare the conformation of centromeric satellite DNA-containing higher-order chromatin fibers with bulk chromatin fibers obtained from the same mouse fibroblast cells. Our data show that chromatin fibers derived from the centromeric domain of a chromosome exist in a more condensed structure than bulk chromatin whereas pericentromeric chromatin fibers have an intermediate conformation. From the standpoint of current models, our data are interpreted to suggest that satellite chromatin adopts a regular helical conformation compatible with the canonical 30-nm chromatin fiber whereas bulk chromatin fibers appear less regularly folded and are perhaps intermittently interrupted by deformations. This distinctive conformation of the higher-order chromatin fiber in the centromeric domain of the mammalian chromosome could play a role in the formation of heterochromatin and in the determination of centromere identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11949-54
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2001


  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient
  • Centromere/chemistry
  • Chromatin/chemistry
  • DNA, Satellite/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Protein Folding
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


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