Heterochromatin in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana is confined to small pericentromeric regions of all five chromosomes and to the nucleolus organizing regions. This clear differentiation makes it possible to study spatial arrangement and functional properties of individual chromatin domains in interphase nuclei. Here, we present the organization of Arabidopsis chromosomes in young parenchyma cells. Heterochromatin segments are organized as condensed chromocenters (CCs), which contain heavily methylated, mostly repetitive DNA sequences. In contrast, euchromatin contains less methylated DNA and emanates from CCs as loops spanning 0.2-2 Mbp. These loops are rich in acetylated histones, whereas CCs contain less acetylated histones. We identified individual CCs and loops by fluorescence in situ hybridization by using rDNA clones and 131 bacterial artificial chromosome DNA clones from chromosome 4. CC and loops together form a chromosome territory. Homologous CCs and territories were associated frequently. Moreover, a considerable number of nuclei displayed perfect alignment of homologous subregions, suggesting physical transinteractions between the homologs. The arrangement of interphase chromosomes in Arabidopsis provides a well defined system to investigate chromatin organization and its role in epigenetic processes.
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