Unravelling the three-dimensional genomic structure of male germ cells

Unravelling the three-dimensional genomic structure of male germ cells

News from CRG

The code of life (genome) is not just a linear sequence of letters, but is also folded (compartmentalised) into a specifically tailored chromatin structure within the cell nuclei. This three-dimensional genomic structure is fundamental, given that it determines which genes “switched on” and which are “switched off” in each cell types.

A new study led by scientists from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and National Centre for Genomic Analysis (CNAG-CRG) reveals the three-dimensional genomic structure of male germ cells. The study, carried out on mice, shows that this structure is extremely dynamic during the formation of germ cells (gamete precursor cells). Moreover, the study revealed a fine-tuned balance between chromatin remodelling, architectural proteins such as cohesins and gene expression during this process.

"This study has been possible only thanks to the combination of complementary techniques in biology such as molecular genetics, microscope imaging and computer simulations. It truly is a multidisciplinary project", explains Marc A. Marti-Renom, ICREA researcher and head of the Structural Genomics Group at the CNAG-CRG and co-leader of the study.

The project represents a significant advance in the study of the mechanisms generating and regulating the 3D structure and function of the genome during the formation of gametes. Determining these mechanisms is fundamental, given that the deregulation of this process can lead to diseases such as infertility and chromosome alterations like trisomy 21.


Vara et al. Three-Dimensional Genomic Structure and Cohesin Occupancy Correlate with Transcriptional Activity during Spermatogenesis. 2019. Cell Reports. 28, 352–367. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.06.037

More information:
CRG website