Focus Point

The European Physical Journal E

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 353-366

First online:

Chromatin code, local non-equilibrium dynamics, and the emergence of transcription regulatory programs

  • A. BeneckeAffiliated withSystems Epigenomics Group, Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques - Interdisciplinary Research Institute Lille, CNRS/INSERM Email author 

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Chromatin is a, if not the, hallmark of eukaryotic life. Any molecular process entailing genomic DNA or the nucleus by default provokes or depends on chromatin structural dynamics on various space and time scales. Chromatin dynamics are result of changes in the physico-chemical properties of the chromatin constituents themselves or the nuclear environment. Chromatin has been found in the former case to undergo many different covalent enzyme-mediated chemical modifications. Their identification sheds light on the molecular mechanisms and the physico-chemical properties underlying chromatin dynamics, and allows the development of quantitative models for the chromatin fiber. The abundance of the different modifications, their dynamics, and short- as well as long-range correlation phenomena between different modifications also point to a second layer of genomic coding implemented at the level of chromatin. Especially, gene regulatory coding seems to depend on such a second-level code. The information-theoretical properties of chromatin in the context of gene regulatory coding are discussed. A model for the emergence of cellular differentiation from the intricate interplay between genomic and chromatin code is presented and discussed in light of recent experimental insights.


87.15.Aa Theory and modeling; computer simulation 87.16.-b Subcellular structure and processes 87.16.Sr Chromosomes, histones