Chromosome Research

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 229–238 | Cite as

Heterochromatin and the cohesion of sister chromatids

Article

Abstract

Heterochromatin, once thought to be the useless junk of chromosomes, is now known to play significant roles in biology. Underlying much of this newfound fame are links between the repressive chromatin structure and cohesin, the protein complex that mediates sister chromatid cohesion. Heterochromatin-mediated recruitment and retention of cohesin to domains flanking centromeres promotes proper attachment of chromosomes to the mitotic and meiotic spindles. Heterochromatin assembled periodically between convergently transcribed genes also recruits cohesin, which promotes a novel form of transcription termination. Heterochromatin-like structures in budding yeast also recruit cohesin. Here the complex appears to regulate transcriptional silencing and recombination between repeated DNA sequences. The link between heterochromatin and cohesin is particularly relevant to human health. In Roberts-SC phocomelia syndrome, heterochromatic cohesion is selectively lost due to mutation of the acetyltransferase responsible for cohesin activation. In this review I discuss recent work that relates to these relationships between heterochromatin and cohesin.

Keywords

cohesin Swi6 HP1 pericentric heterochromatin Sir proteins Transcriptional silencing silent chromatin 

Abbreviations

CAR

cohesin-associated region

CTCF

CCCTC-binding protein

H3K9

lysine 9 of histone H3

HP1

heterochromatin protein of higher eukaryotes

RBS-SC

Roberts-SC phocomelia syndrome

Sir

silent information regulator

Swi6

a homologue of HP1

tDNA

tRNA gene

rDNA

ribosomal RNA gene

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New JerseyPiscatawayUSA

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