Biophysics of chromatin organisation

Every eukaryotic cell faces the challenge of organizing its genome into the nucleus: a compartment that is orders of magnitude smaller than the length of the DNA itself. While solving this topological organization problem, this process also needs to be precisely regulated, as the genome needs to control the accessibility of the information it encodes.

Nuclear organization occurs on several levels, all involving physical processes. First, the basic folding of the genome, coated with modifiable histones, is dictated by principles of polymer physics. Second, active systems driven by molecular motors, such as SMC (Structural Maintenance of Chromosomes) proteins, result in chromatin loops. Third, the nucleus is roughly divided into compartments that preferentially associate with chromatin of similar transcriptional status (“A” representing active euchromatin, “B” is silenced heterochromatin).

Our lab aims to examine the functional relevance of the genome architecture and the biophysical mechanisms that drive it. We use a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach, ranging from single-molecule biophysics to genomics and engineering.