University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Mechanisms and Functions of Chromosome Compartmentalization

UMMS Affiliation

Program in Systems Biology; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Publication Date


Document Type



Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology | Genetics and Genomics


Active and inactive chromatin are spatially separated in the nucleus. In Hi-C data, this is reflected by the formation of compartments, whose interactions form a characteristic checkerboard pattern in chromatin interaction maps. Only recently have the mechanisms that drive this separation come into view. Here, we discuss new insights into these mechanisms and possible functions in genome regulation. Compartmentalization can be understood as a microphase-segregated block co-polymer. Microphase separation can be facilitated by chromatin factors that associate with compartment domains, and that can engage in liquid-liquid phase separation to form subnuclear bodies, as well as by acting as bridging factors between polymer sections. We then discuss how a spatially segregated state of the genome can contribute to gene regulation, and highlight experimental challenges for testing these structure-function relationships.


HP1, compartment, euchromatin, heterochromatin, microphase separation

DOI of Published Version



Hildebrand EM, Dekker J. Mechanisms and Functions of Chromosome Compartmentalization. Trends Biochem Sci. 2020 May;45(5):385-396. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2020.01.002. Epub 2020 Feb 18. PMID: 32311333; PMCID: PMC7275117. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Trends in biochemical sciences

PubMed ID