News from CRG
How cells acquire different identities has long fascinated biologists. During cell development and differentiation, environmental cues trigger signal transduction pathways that result in the activation of specific transcription factors. These in turn determine the epigenetic landscape and gene expression program characteristic of each cell type.
Recent technological advances in the study of 3D chromatin folding have brought cell-specific genome conformation to the fore. A hotly debated topic is the role of chromatin architecture in gene expression: is it only a by-product of changes in transcription or does it have an informational value in itself?
In a review in the May 16 issue of Nature, the researchers Ralph Stadhouders, CRG Alumni now at Erasmus MC, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Guillaume Filion and Thomas Graf, of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), in Barcelona, Spain, discuss recent evidence, including a study performed at the CRG, indicating that it goes both ways: the continuous interplay between genome conformation and transcriptional changes is a driving force for cell-fate decisions. Understanding how the genome folds within the tiny space of the nucleus and how this differs between specialized cells has profound implications for developmental disorders and cancer.