Heterochromatin flexibility contributes to chromosome segregation in cell nucleus
While there is a prevalent genome organization in eukaryotic cells, with heterochromatin concentrated at the nuclear periphery, anomalous cases do occur. Deviations of chromatin distribution are frequent, for example, upon aging, under malignant diseases, or even naturally in rod cells of nocturnal mammals. Using molecular dynamic simulations, we study the segregation of heterochromatin in the cell nucleus by modeling interphase chromosomes as diblock ring copolymers confined in a rigid
... in a rigid spherical shell. In our model, heterochromatin and euchromatin are distinguished by their bending stiffnesses, while an interaction potential between the spherical shell and chromatin are used as a proxy for lamin-associated proteins. Our simulations indicate that in the absence of attractive interactions between the nuclear shell and the chromatin, the majority of heterochromatin segregates towards the nuclear interior due to depletion of less flexible heterochromatin segments from the nuclear periphery. This inverted chromatin distribution is in accord with experimental observations in rod cells. This "inversion" is also found to be independent of the heterochromatin concentration and chromosome number, and is further enhanced by additional attractive interactions between heterochromatin segments. as well as by allowing bond-crossing to emulate topoisomerase activity. The usual chromatin distribution, with heterochromatin at the periphery, can be recovered by further increasing the bending stiffness of heterochromatin segments or by turning on attractive interactions between the nuclear shell and heterochromatin. Overall, our results indicate that bending stiffness of chromatin could be a contributor to chromosome organization along with differential effects of HP1α-driven phase segregation and of loop extruders, and interactions with the nuclear envelope and topological constraints.