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BACKGROUND: Condensation differences along the lengths of homologous, mitotic metaphase chromosomes are well known. This study reports molecular cytogenetic data showing quantifiable localized differences in condensation between homologs 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 DNA probes used in fluorescence in situ hybridization.
RESULTS: Fourteen probes (from chromosomes 1, 5, 9, 11, 15, 17, 22) targeting genic and intergenic regions were developed and hybridized to cells from 10 individuals with cytogenetically-distinguishable homologs. Differences in hybridization between homologs were non-random for 8 genomic regions (RGS7, CACNA1B, GABRA5, SNRPN, HERC2, PMP22:IVS3, ADORA2B:IVS1, ACR) and were not unique to known imprinted domains or specific chromosomes. DNA probes within CCNB1, C9orf66, ADORA2B:Promoter-Ex1, PMP22:IVS4-Ex 5, and intergenic region 1p36.3 showed no DA (equivalent accessibility), while OPCML showed unbiased DA. To pinpoint probe locations, we performed 3D-structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM). This showed that genomic regions with DA had 3.3-fold greater volumetric, integrated probe intensities and broad distributions of probe depths along axial and lateral axes of the 2 homologs, compared to a low copy probe target (NOMO1) with equivalent accessibility. Genomic regions with equivalent accessibility were also enriched for epigenetic marks of open interphase chromatin (DNase I HS, H3K27Ac, H3K4me1) to a greater extent than regions with DA.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that DA is non-random and reproducible; it is locus specific, but not unique to known imprinted regions or specific chromosomes. Non-random DA was also shown to be heritable within a 2 generation family. DNA probe volume and depth measurements of hybridized metaphase chromosomes further show locus-specific chromatin accessibility differences by super-resolution 3D-SIM. Based on these data and the analysis of interphase epigenetic marks of genomic intervals with DA, we conclude that there are localized differences in compaction of homologs during mitotic metaphase and that these differences may arise during or preceding metaphase chromosome compaction. Our results suggest new directions for locus-specific structural analysis of metaphase chromosomes, motivated by the potential relationship of these findings to underlying epigenetic changes established during interphase.