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Heterochromatin: The portion of chromosome material that remains condensed and is transcriptionally inactive during Interphase.

DNA Packaging

JoVE 10785

Eukaryotes have large genomes compared to prokaryotes. In order to fit their genomes into a cell, eukaryotes must pack their DNA tightly inside the nucleus. To do so, DNA is wound around proteins called histones to form nucleosomes, the main unit of DNA packaging. Nucleosomes then coil into compact fibers known as chromatin.

Most cells in the human body contain about 3 billion base pairs of DNA packaged into 23 pairs of chromosomes. It is hard to imagine exactly how much DNA these numbers represent. So how much packing has to happen to fit the genome into a cell? We can gain some insight by expressing the genome in terms of length. If we were to arrange the DNA of a single human cell, like a skin cell, into a straight line, it would be two meters long–over 6.5 feet. The human body contains around 50 trillion human cells. This means that each person has a total of about 100 trillion meters of DNA. In other words, each person has enough DNA to stretch from the Earth to the Sun 300 times! And humans do not have particularly large genomes–those of many fish, amphibians, and flowering plants are much larger. For example, the genome of the flowering plant Paris japonica is 25 times larger than the human diploid genome. These figures emphasize the astonishing task that eukaryotes must accomplish to pack their DNA inside cells.

 Core: Biology

An Overview of Epigenetics

JoVE 5549

Since the early days of genetics research, scientists have noted certain heritable phenotypic differences that are not due to differences in the nucleotide sequence of DNA. Current evidence suggests that these “epigenetic” phenomena might be controlled by a number of mechanisms, including the modification of DNA cytosine bases with methyl groups, the addition…

 Genetics
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