It has been a long-standing question how the human genome, which is up to two meters long, is folded up inside the cell nucleus. The Dekker lab, in collaboration with the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, developed a new molecular technology, Hi-C, for determining the three-dimensional structure of the human genome at high resolution. The results reveal a surprising level of functional compartmentalization of chromosomes in which all active segments of chromosomes tend to be spatially separated from the inactive parts of the genome. Hi-C data also revealed that at the megabase scale chromatin is packed very densely, consistent with a fractal globule conformation. This conformation is unknotted yet highly compact and is an efficient solution to packing long chromosomes in the cell nucleus. The paper can be found at the Science website. To mitigate for the lack of a structure requiring the use of retro red/green stereoglasses, a Science podcast highlighting this amazing accomplishment is available.
More information on Professor Job Dekker’s research program can found here.