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Tanabe, Hideyuki; Habermann, Felix A.; Solovei, Irina; Cremer, Marion; Cremer, Thomas (2002): Non-random radial arrangements of interphase chromosome territories: evolutionary considerations and functional implications. In: Mutation research / Fundamental and molecular mechanisms of mutagenesis, Vol. 504, No. 1-2: pp. 37-45
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In the nucleus of animal and plant cells individual chromosomes maintain a compartmentalized structure. Chromosome territories (CTs), as these structures were named by Theodor Boveri, are essential components of the higher-order chromatin architecture. Recent studies in mammals and non-mammalian vertebrates indicate that the radial position of a given CT (or segments thereof) is correlated with its size, its gene-density and its replication timing. As a representative case, chicken cell nuclei show highly consistent radial chromatin arrangements: gene-rich, early replicating microchromosomes are clustered within the nuclear interior, while gene-poor, later replicating macrochromosomes are preferentially located at the nuclear periphery. In humans, chromosomes 18 and 19 (HSA18 and 19) territories that are of similar size show a distinctly different position in the cell nuclei of lymphocytes and lymphoblastoid cells: the gene-rich and early replicating HSA19 CTs are typically found close to the nuclear center, while the gene-poor and later replicating HSA18 CTs are preferentially located at the nuclear periphery. Recent comparative maps between human and chicken chromosomes revealed that the chicken macrochromosomes 2 and Z contain the genes homologous to HSA18, while the genes on HSA19 are located onto the chicken microchromosomes. These data lend tentative support to the hypothesis that differences in the radial nuclear positions of gene-rich, early replicating and gene-poor, later replicating chromatin have been evolutionarily conserved during a period of more than 300 million years irrespective of the evolution of highly divergent karyotypes between humans and chicken.