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Concept: Metaphase


The three-dimensional organization of tightly condensed chromatin within metaphase chromosomes has been one of the most challenging problems in structural biology since the discovery of the nucleosome. This study shows that chromosome images obtained from typical banded karyotypes and from different multicolour cytogenetic analyses can be used to gain information about the internal structure of chromosomes. Chromatin bands and the connection surfaces in sister chromatid exchanges and in cancer translocations are planar and orthogonal to the chromosome axis. Chromosome stretching produces band splitting and even the thinnest bands are orthogonal and well defined, indicating that short stretches of DNA can occupy completely the chromosome cross-section. These observations impose strong physical constraints on models that attempt to explain chromatin folding in chromosomes. The thin-plate model, which consists of many stacked layers of planar chromatin perpendicular to the chromosome axis, is compatible with the observed orientation of bands, with the existence of thin bands, and with band splitting; it is also compatible with the orthogonal orientation and planar geometry of the connection surfaces in chromosome rearrangements. The results obtained provide a consistent interpretation of the chromosome structural properties that are used in clinical cytogenetics for the diagnosis of hereditary diseases and cancers.

Concepts: DNA, Chromosome, Cytogenetics, Chromosomal translocation, Mitosis, Metaphase, Chromatin, Karyotype


Microarray-based comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH) led to the discovery of genetic abnormalities among patients with complex phenotype and normal karyotype. Also several apparently normal individuals have been found to be carriers of cryptic imbalances, hence the importance to perform parental investigations after the identification of a deletion/duplication in a proband. Here, we report the molecular cytogenetic characterization of two individuals in which the microdeletions/duplications present in their parents could have predisposed and facilitated the formation of pathogenic different copy number variations (CNVs). In family 1, a 4-year-old girl had a pathogenic 10.5 Mb duplication at 15q21.2q22.2, while her mother showed a 2.262 Mb deletion at 15q13.2q13.3; in family 2, a 9-year-old boy had a 1.417 Mb deletion at 22q11.21 and a second paternal deletion of 247 Kb at 22q11.23 on the same chromosome 22. Chromosome 22 at band q11.2 and chromosome 15 at band q11q13 are considered unstable regions. We could hypothesize that 15q13.2q13.3 and 22q11.21 deletions in the two respective parents might have increased the risk of rearrangements in their children. This study highlights the difficulty to make genetic counseling and predict the phenotypic consequences in these situations.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Copy number variation, Chromosome, Cytogenetics, Chromosomes, Metaphase


Recent studies have revealed the importance of Ki-67 and the chromosome periphery in chromosome structure and segregation, but little is known about this elusive chromosome compartment. Here we used correlative light and serial block-face scanning electron microscopy, which we term 3D-CLEM, to model the entire mitotic chromosome complement at ultra-structural resolution. Prophase chromosomes exhibit a highly irregular surface appearance with a volume smaller than metaphase chromosomes. This may be because of the absence of the periphery, which associates with chromosomes only after nucleolar disassembly later in prophase. Indeed, the nucleolar volume almost entirely accounts for the extra volume found in metaphase chromosomes. Analysis of wild-type and Ki-67-depleted chromosomes reveals that the periphery comprises 30%-47% of the entire chromosome volume and more than 33% of the protein mass of isolated mitotic chromosomes determined by quantitative proteomics. Thus, chromatin makes up a surprisingly small percentage of the total mass of metaphase chromosomes.

Concepts: DNA, Cell nucleus, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Centromere, Mitosis, Metaphase, Chromatin


With recent rapid advances in genomic technologies, precise delineation of structural chromosome rearrangements at the nucleotide level is becoming increasingly feasible. In this era of “next-generation cytogenetics” (i.e., an integration of traditional cytogenetic techniques and next-generation sequencing), a consensus nomenclature is essential for accurate communication and data sharing. Currently, nomenclature for describing the sequencing data of these aberrations is lacking. Herein, we present a system called Next-Gen Cytogenetic Nomenclature, which is concordant with the International System for Human Cytogenetic Nomenclature (2013). This system starts with the alignment of rearrangement sequences by BLAT or BLAST (alignment tools) and arrives at a concise and detailed description of chromosomal changes. To facilitate usage and implementation of this nomenclature, we are developing a program designated BLA(S)T Output Sequence Tool of Nomenclature (BOSToN), a demonstrative version of which is accessible online. A standardized characterization of structural chromosomal rearrangements is essential both for research analyses and for application in the clinical setting.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Chromosome, Cytogenetics, Chromosomal translocation, Sequence, Aneuploidy, Metaphase


Successful completion of mitosis requires that sister kinetochores become attached end-on to the plus ends of spindle microtubules (MTs) in prometaphase, thereby forming kinetochore microtubules (kMTs) that tether one sister to one spindle pole and the other sister to the opposite pole. Sites for kMT attachment provide at least four key functions: robust and dynamic kMT anchorage; force generation that can be coupled to kMT plus-end dynamics; correction of errors in kMT attachment; and control of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC). The SAC typically delays anaphase until chromosomes achieve metaphase alignment with each sister kinetochore acquiring a full complement of kMTs. Although it has been known for over 30 years that MT motor proteins reside at kinetochores, a highly conserved network of protein complexes, called the KMN network, has emerged in recent years as the primary interface between the kinetochore and kMTs. This Commentary will summarize recent advances in our understanding of the role of the KMN network for the key kinetochore functions, with a focus on human cells.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Eukaryote, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Metaphase, Motor protein, Kinetochore, Spindle apparatus



The goal was to develop methods for detection of chromosomal and subchromosomal abnormalities in fetal cells in the mother’s circulation at 10-16 weeks gestation using analysis by array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) and/or next-generation sequencing (NGS).

Concepts: Gene, Pregnancy, Human, Embryo, Uterus, Array comparative genomic hybridization, Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Metaphase


Preimplantation genetic diagnosis of aneuploidy (PGD-A) with comprehensive chromosome analysis has been known to improve pregnancy outcomes. Accuracy in detecting sex chromosomes becomes important when selecting against embryos at risk for sex-linked disorders. A total of 21,356 PGD-A cycles consisting of day-3 (cleavage) or day-5 (blastocyst) biopsies were received at the same laboratory for PGD-A via fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) or array comparative genome hybridization (aCGH) from multiple fertility centres. The misdiagnosis rates were 0.12% (Wilson 95% CI 0.05 to 0.25%) in day-3 FISH cycles, 0.48% (Wilson 95% CI 0.19 to 1.22%) in day-3 aCGH cycles and 0.0% (Wilson 95% CI 0 to 0.26) in day-5 aCGH cycles. Although rare, the likely causative biological event for true misdiagnosis is embryonic XX/XY mosaicism. Reanalysis of 1219 abnormal cleavage-stage research embryos revealed a 73% incidence of minor and major mosaicism. Only four (0.3%) embryos were found to be diploid and contained XX and XY cells that could potentially account for the misdiagnosis of sex. Our investigation identified errors leading to misdiagnosis and their attribution to specific events during PGD-A testing. The reported misdiagnosis rates suggest that PGD-A for sex determination is highly accurate, particularly when using aCGH applied to blastocyst biopsies.

Concepts: Gene, Pregnancy, Genetics, Chromosome, Cytogenetics, Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Metaphase, Comparative genomic hybridization


The two Condensin complexes in human cells are essential for mitotic chromosome structure. We used homozygous genome editing to fluorescently tag Condensin I and II subunits and mapped their absolute abundance, spacing, and dynamic localization during mitosis by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FSC)-calibrated live-cell imaging and superresolution microscopy. Although ∼35,000 Condensin II complexes are stably bound to chromosomes throughout mitosis, ∼195,000 Condensin I complexes dynamically bind in two steps: prometaphase and early anaphase. The two Condensins rarely colocalize at the chromatid axis, where Condensin II is centrally confined, but Condensin I reaches ∼50% of the chromatid diameter from its center. Based on our comprehensive quantitative data, we propose a three-step hierarchical loop model of mitotic chromosome compaction: Condensin II initially fixes loops of a maximum size of ∼450 kb at the chromatid axis, whose size is then reduced by Condensin I binding to ∼90 kb in prometaphase and ∼70 kb in anaphase, achieving maximum chromosome compaction upon sister chromatid segregation.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Meiosis, Metaphase, Anaphase, Chromatid


Chromosome segregation and mitotic exit are initiated by the 1.2-MDa ubiquitin ligase APC/C (anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome) and its coactivator CDC20 (cell division cycle 20). To avoid chromosome missegregation, APC/C(CDC20) activation is tightly controlled. CDC20 only associates with APC/C in mitosis when APC/C has become phosphorylated and is further inhibited by a mitotic checkpoint complex until all chromosomes are bioriented on the spindle. APC/C contains 14 different types of subunits, most of which are phosphorylated in mitosis on multiple sites. However, it is unknown which of these phospho-sites enable APC/C(CDC20) activation and by which mechanism. Here we have identified 68 evolutionarily conserved mitotic phospho-sites on human APC/C bound to CDC20 and have used the biGBac technique to generate 47 APC/C mutants in which either all 68 sites or subsets of them were replaced by nonphosphorylatable or phospho-mimicking residues. The characterization of these complexes in substrate ubiquitination and degradation assays indicates that phosphorylation of an N-terminal loop region in APC1 is sufficient for binding and activation of APC/C by CDC20. Deletion of the N-terminal APC1 loop enables APC/C(CDC20) activation in the absence of mitotic phosphorylation or phospho-mimicking mutations. These results indicate that binding of CDC20 to APC/C is normally prevented by an autoinhibitory loop in APC1 and that its mitotic phosphorylation relieves this inhibition. The predicted location of the N-terminal APC1 loop implies that this loop controls interactions between the N-terminal domain of CDC20 and APC1 and APC8. These results reveal how APC/C phosphorylation enables CDC20 to bind and activate the APC/C in mitosis.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Chromosome, Posttranslational modification, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, Metaphase