Biochemistry (Moscow)

, Volume 83, Issue 4, pp 313–325 | Cite as

The 4D Nucleome: Genome Compartmentalization in an Evolutionary Context

  • T. Cremer
  • M. Cremer
  • C. Cremer


4D nucleome research aims to understand the impact of nuclear organization in space and time on nuclear functions, such as gene expression patterns, chromatin replication, and the maintenance of genome integrity. In this review we describe evidence that the origin of 4D genome compartmentalization can be traced back to the prokaryotic world. In cell nuclei of animals and plants chromosomes occupy distinct territories, built up from ~1 Mb chromatin domains, which in turn are composed of smaller chromatin subdomains and also form larger chromatin domain clusters. Microscopic evidence for this higher order chromatin landscape was strengthened by chromosome conformation capture studies, in particular Hi-C. This approach demonstrated ~1 Mb sized, topologically associating domains in mammalian cell nuclei separated by boundaries. Mutations, which destroy boundaries, can result in developmental disorders and cancer. Nucleosomes appeared first as tetramers in the Archaea kingdom and later evolved to octamers built up each from two H2A, two H2B, two H3, and two H4 proteins. Notably, nucleosomes were lost during the evolution of the Dinoflagellata phylum. Dinoflagellate chromosomes remain condensed during the entire cell cycle, but their chromosome architecture differs radically from the architecture of other eukaryotes. In summary, the conservation of fundamental features of higher order chromatin arrangements throughout the evolution of metazoan animals suggests the existence of conserved, but still unknown mechanism(s) controlling this architecture. Notwithstanding this conservation, a comparison of metazoans and protists also demonstrates species-specific structural and functional features of nuclear organization.


4D nucleome nuclear architecture evolution chromatin domains topologically associating domains (TADs) genome compartmentalization 



active nuclear compartment/inactive nuclear compartment


chromatin domain


chromatin domain cluster


chromosome territory




interchromatin compartment


perichromatin region


structured illumination microscopy


topologically associating domain


transcription factor


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Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biocenter, Department of Biology IILudwig Maximilian University (LMU)MunichGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) MainzMainzGermany

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