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tRNA Genes Affect Chromosome Structure and Function via Local Effects


The genome is packaged and organized in an ordered, nonrandom manner, and specific chromatin segments contact nuclear substructures to mediate this organization. tRNA genes (tDNAs) are binding sites for transcription factors and architectural proteins and are thought to play an important role in the organization of the genome. In this study, we investigate the roles of tDNAs in genomic organization and chromosome function by editing a chromosome so that it lacked any tDNAs. Surprisingly our analyses of this tDNA-less chromosome show that loss of tDNAs does not grossly affect chromatin architecture or chromosome tethering and mobility. However, loss of tDNAs affects local nucleosome positioning and the binding of SMC proteins at these loci. The absence of tDNAs also leads to changes in centromere clustering and a reduction in the frequency of long-range HML-HMR heterochromatin clustering with concomitant effects on gene silencing. We propose that the tDNAs primarily affect local chromatin structure, which results in effects on long-range chromosome architecture.

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