Genomes of higher eukaryotes consist of two types of chromatin: euchromatin and heterochromatin. Heterochromatin is densely packed material typically localized in telomeric and pericentric chromosome regions. Euchromatin transferred by chromosome rearrangements in the vicinity of heterochromatin is inactivated and acquires morphological properties of heterochromatin in the case of position effect variegation. One of the X chromosomes in mammal females and all paternal chromosome set in coccides become heterochromatic. The heterochromatic elements of the genome exhibit similar structural properties: genetic inactivation, compaction, late DNA replication at the S stage, and underrepresentation in somatic cells. The genetic inactivation and heterochromatin assembly are underlain by a specific genetic mechanism, silencing, which includes DNA methylation and posttranslational histone modification provided by the complex of nonhistone proteins. The state of silencing is inherited in cell generations. The same molecular mechanisms of silencing shared by all types of heterochromatic regions, be it unique or highly repetitive sequences, suggest the similar organization of these regions. No type of heterochromatin is a permanent structure as they all are formed at the strictly definite stages of early embryogenesis. Based on the bulk of evidence accumulated today, heterochromatin can be regarded as a morphological manifestation of genetic silencing.
Russian Journal of Genetics – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 7, 2004
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