SFB 1064

Links and Functions

Breadcrumb Navigation


A change in biophysical properties accompanies heterochromatin formation in mouse embryos

Genes & Dev article Guthmann et al. from the Torres-Padilla lab


Manuel Guthmann, Chen Qian, Irene Gialdini, Tsunetoshi Nakatani, Andreas Ettinger, Tamas Schauer, Igor Kukhtevich, Robert Schneider, Don C. Lamb, Adam Burton and Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla  (2023 April 18) A change in biophysical properties accompanies heterochromatin formation in mouse embryos. Genes & Dev (published ahead of print) doi: 10.1101/gad.350353.122 

Abstract cited from the article:

The majority of our genome is composed of repeated DNA sequences that assemble into heterochromatin, a highly compacted structure that constrains their mutational potential. How heterochromatin forms during development and how its structure is maintained are not fully understood. Here, we show that mouse heterochromatin phase-separates after fertilization, during the earliest stages of mammalian embryogenesis. Using high-resolution quantitative imaging and molecular biology approaches, we show that pericentromeric heterochromatin displays properties consistent with a liquid-like state at the two-cell stage, which change at the four-cell stage, when chromocenters mature and heterochromatin becomes silent. Disrupting the condensates results in altered transcript levels of pericentromeric heterochromatin, suggesting a functional role for phase separation in heterochromatin function. Thus, our work shows that mouse heterochromatin forms membrane-less compartments with biophysical properties that change during development and provides new insights into the self-organization of chromatin domains during mammalian embryogenesis.

Teaser image copyright Genes & Development 2023