Cohesin depleted cells pass through mitosis and reconstitute a functional nuclear architecture.


The human genome forms thousands of “contact domains”, which are intervals of enhanced contact frequency. Some, called “loop domains” are thought to form by cohesin-mediated loop extrusion. Others, called “compartmental domains”, form due to the segregation of active and inactive chromatin into A and B compartments. Recently, Hi-C studies revealed that the depletion of cohesin leads to the disappearance of all loop domains within a few hours, but strengthens compartment structure. Here, we combine live cell microscopy, super-resolution microscopy, Hi-C, and studies of replication timing to examine the longer-term consequences of cohesin degradation in HCT-116 human colorectal carcinoma cells, tracking cells for up to 30 hours. Surprisingly, cohesin depleted cells proceed through an aberrant mitosis, yielding a single postmitotic cell with a multilobulated nucleus. Hi-C reveals the continued disappearance of loop domains, whereas A and B compartments are maintained. In line with Hi-C, microscopic observations demonstrate the reconstitution of chromosome territories and chromatin domains. An interchromatin channel system (IC) expands between chromatin domain clusters and carries splicing speckles. The IC is lined by active chromatin enriched for RNA Pol II and depleted in H3K27me3. Moreover, the cells exhibit typical early-, mid-, and late- DNA replication timing patterns. Our observations indicate that the functional nuclear compartmentalization can be maintained in cohesin depleted pre- and postmitotic cells. However, we find that replication foci – sites of active DNA synthesis – become physically larger consistent with a model where cohesin dependent loop extrusion tends to compact intervals of replicating chromatin, whereas their genomic boundaries are associated with compartmentalization, and do not change.

Nature Communications 11, 6146 (2020)