Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

A three-dimensional approach to mitotic chromosome structure: evidence for a complex hierarchical organization.


We describe findings on the architecture of Drosophila melanogaster mitotic chromosomes, made using a three-dimensional-oriented structural approach. Using high-voltage and conventional transmission electron microscopy combined with axial tomography and digital contrast-enhancement techniques, we have for the first time visualized significant structural detail within minimally perturbed mitotic chromosomes. Chromosomes prepared by several different preparative procedures showed a consistent size hierarchy of discrete chromatin structural domains with cross-sectional diameters of 120, 240, 400-500, and 800-1,000 A. In fully condensed, metaphase-arrested chromosomes, there is evidence for even larger-scale structural organization in the range of 1,300-3,000-A size. The observed intrachromosomal arrangements of these higher-order structural domains show that both the radial loop and sequential helical coiling models of chromosome structure are over-simplifications of the true situation. Finally, our results suggest that the pathway of chromatin condensation through mitosis consists of concurrent changes occurring at several levels of chromatin organization, rather than a strictly sequential folding process.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View