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Biophysical ordering transitions underlie genome 3D re-organization during cricket spermiogenesis.

Guillermo A Orsi, Maxime MC Tortora, Béatrice Horard, Dominique Baas, Jean-Philippe Kleman, Jonas Bucevičius, Gražvydas Lukinavičius, Daniel Jost, and Benjamin Loppin (2023)

Nat Commun, 14(1):4187.

Spermiogenesis is a radical process of differentiation whereby sperm cellsacquire a compact and specialized morphology to cope with the constraints ofsexual reproduction while preserving their main cargo, an intact copy of thepaternal genome. In animals, this often involves the replacement of most histonesby sperm-specific nuclear basic proteins (SNBPs). Yet, how the SNBP-structuredgenome achieves compaction and accommodates shaping remain largely unknown. Here,we exploit confocal, electron and super-resolution microscopy, coupled withpolymer modeling to identify the higher-order architecture of sperm chromatin inthe needle-shaped nucleus of the emerging model cricket Gryllus bimaculatus.Accompanying spermatid differentiation, the SNBP-based genome is strikinglyreorganized as ~25nm-thick fibers orderly coiled along the elongated nucleusaxis. This chromatin spool is further found to achieve large-scale helicaltwisting in the final stages of spermiogenesis, favoring its ultracompaction. Wereveal that these dramatic transitions may be recapitulated by a surprisinglysimple biophysical principle based on a nucleated rigidification of chromatinlinked to the histone-to-SNBP transition within a confined nuclear space. Ourwork highlights a unique, liquid crystal-like mode of higher-order genomeorganization in ultracompact cricket sperm, and establishes a multidisciplinarymethodological framework to explore the diversity of non-canonical modes of DNAorganization.

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