Chromosome Research

, Volume 27, Issue 1–2, pp 31–40 | Cite as

The chromatin landscape of the ribosomal RNA genes in mouse and human

  • Tom MossEmail author
  • Jean-Clement Mars
  • Michel G. Tremblay
  • Marianne Sabourin-Felix


The rRNA genes of mouse and human encode the three major RNAs of the ribosome and as such are essential for growth and development. These genes are present in high copy numbers and arranged as direct repeats at the Nucleolar Organizer Regions on multiple chromosomes. Not all the rRNA genes are transcriptionally active, but the molecular mechanisms that determine activity are complex and still poorly understood. Recent studies applying a novel Deconvolution Chromatin Immunoprecipitation (DChIP-Seq) technique in conjunction with conditional gene inactivation provide new insights into the structure of the active rRNA genes and question previous assumptions on the role of chromatin and histone modifications. We suggest an alternative model for the active rRNA gene chromatin and discuss how this structure is determined and maintained.


RNA polymerase I (RPI, PolI, Polr1) RPI associated factor RRN3 (TIF-IA or TIF1A) Upstream binding factor (UBF/UBTF) Ribosome biogenesis Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes Ribosomal DNA (rDNA) Active rDNA chromatin Silent rDNA chromatin 



RNA polymerase I, POLR1, POL1


RNA polymerase II, POLR2, POL2


RPI associated factor


Ribosomal RNA


Ribosomal DNA


RNA polymerase 1-specific TBP-TAF complex


Upstream binding factor, UBTF


Author statement

TM conceived the study and wrote the manuscript, J-CM and MGT performed experimental research, and MS-F analyzed the data from ChIP-Seq. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was funded by operating grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR, MOP12205/PJT153266) and the National Science and Engineering Council (NSERC) of Canada. The Research Centre of the Québec University Hospital Centre (CHU de Québec) is supported by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Santé (FRQS).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Growth and Development, St Patrick Research Group in Basic OncologyCancer Division of the Quebec University Hospital Research CentreQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Department of Molecular Biology, Medical Biochemistry and Pathology, Faculty of MedicineLaval UniversityQuébecCanada

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