The quinternary chromatin-DNA structure - Three-dimensional reconstruction and functional significance

F. M. Kendall, F. Beltrame, S. Zietz, Andrew S Belmont, C. Nicolini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nuclear DNA-space images from Feulgen-stained HeLa cells synchronized at 1, 3, 5, 8, 12, 15, and 18 h following mitosis are digitized and their densitometric-geometric patterns are analyzed by means of a Quantimet 720-D image analyzer on line with a PDP11/40 computer. Frequency distributions of picture point optical densities for the phases and subphases as seen in nuclear images show that DNA packing changes are evident by means of ordinary optical microscopy. Radii of gyration of the images, and optical density profiles and distributions for several squashes of similar cells reveal that in particular instances chromatin DNA is distributed mostly towards the periphery, and usually with high circular isotropy. Cross power spectra of individual scan lines suggest the existence of higher order "quinternary" periodic structure for chromatin that modulates during the cell cycle. Three-dimensional reconstruction of 2- μm sections of intact, Feulgen-stained mammalian tumor tissue show stainable material only toward the nuclear perimeter and not in the center (compatible with the evidence that initial thymidine incorporation in HeLa cells is generally at the nuclear border). Densitometric properties of reconstructed interphase chromatin-DNA bodies are highly coupled with similar properties of the whole nucleus, showing that a more condensed nucleus is always accompanied by a more condensed interphase chromatin DNA. The effect of micrococcal nuclease digestion on the digitized nuclear images is also presented. All the above data are then discussed in terms of a quinternary chromatin-DNA structure and its modulation during the cell cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-404
Number of pages32
JournalCell Biophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1980
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA space packing
  • DNA, in chromatin, quinternary structure of
  • Quinternary chromatin-DNA structure
  • chromatin DNA, quinternary structure of
  • three-dimensional reconstruction, of chromatin DNA structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology


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