Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Joan Knoll and Dr. Peter Rogan


The human mitotic metaphase chromosome is a product of complex chromatin restructuring during interphase. Metaphase chromosomes exhibit considerable plasticity in condensation. This is evident as distinct regions of accessible and compact chromatin fiber or epigenetic differences in histone and non-histone proteins. Such differences in chromatin condensation have been extensively described along the length of individual mitotic chromosomes but have not been recognized between homologous loci during metaphase.

This thesis characterizes localized differences in condensation of homologous metaphase chromosomes that are related to differences in accessibility (DA) of associated DNA probe targets. Reproducible DA was observed for ~10% of locus-specific, short (1.5-5 kb) single copy (SC) DNA probes used in fluorescence in situ hybridization. To investigate the physical and structural organization of chromatin at locus-specific sites, we developed correlated atomic force and fluorescence microscopy imaging. Comparison of centromeric DNA and protein distribution patterns in fixed homologous chromosomes indicated that CENP-B and α-satellite DNA were distributed distinctly from one another and relative to observed centromeric ridge topography. At non-centromeic locations, short DNA probes that did not exhibit DA showed greater accessibility to the accessible chromatin topography on both homologs.

Localized differential accessibility between chromosome homologs in metaphase was non-random and reproducible but not unique to known imprinted regions or specific chromosomes. Second, non-random DA was shown to be heritable within a 2 generation family. Third, DNA probe volume and depth measurements of hybridized metaphase chromosomes showed internal differences in chromatin accessibility of homologous regions by super-resolution 3D-structured illumination microscopy. Finally, genomic regions with equivalent accessibility were enriched for epigenetic marks of open interphase chromatin to a greater extent than regions with DA, suggesting that observed structural differences in accessibility may arise during or preceding metaphase chromosome compaction.

Inhibition of the topoisomerase IIα-DNA cleavage complex mitigated DA by decreasing DNA superhelicity and axial metaphase chromosome condensation. Inter-homolog probe intensity ratios, depth, and volume between chromosomes treated with a catalytic inhibitor of topoisomerase IIα, were equalized compared to untreated cells. These data altogether suggest that DA is a reflection of allelic differences in metaphase chromosome compaction, dictated by the catenation state of the chromosome.

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