A novel approach to study the higher level packaging of specific DNA sequences has been developed by coupling high-resolution fluorescence hybridization with biochemical fractionation to remove histones and distend DNA loops to form morphologically reproducible nuclear "halos." Results demonstrate consistent differences in the organization of specific sequences, and further suggest a relationship to functional activity. Pulse-incorporated bromodeoxyuridine representing nascent replicating DNA localized with the base of the chromatin loops in discrete clustered patterns characteristic of intact cells, whereas at increasing chase times, the replicated DNA was consistently found further out on the extended region of the halo. Fluorescence hybridization to unique loci for four transcriptionally inactive sequences produced long strings of signal extending out onto the DNA halo or "loop," whereas four transcriptionally active sequences remained tightly condensed as single spots within the residual nucleus. In contrast, in non-extracted cells, all sequences studied typically remained condensed as single spots of fluorescence signal. Interestingly, two transcriptionally active, tandemly repeated gene clusters exhibited strikingly different packaging by this assay. Analysis of specific genes in single cells during the cell cycle revealed changes in packaging between S-phase and non S-phase cells, and further suggested a dramatic difference in the structural associations in mitotic and interphase chromatin. These results are consistent with and suggestive of a loop domain organization of chromatin packaging involving both stable and transient structural associations, and provide precedent for an approach whereby different biochemical fractionation methods may be used to unravel various aspects of the complex higher-level organization of the genome.

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