Description and Aim
The DNA of eukaryotic cells is compacted with the help of proteins into the chromatin complex. Compaction of DNA is necessary for the meters-long genomes to fit into the micron-sized cell nuclei. On top of this, variations in the DNA packaging allow for the differentiation between different cells. It is therefore clear that an understanding of the structure of chromatin is of crucial importance for an understanding of the molecular biology of the cell and it is thus not surprising that chromatin is the subject of intense research since several decades.
Surprisingly - despite of all that work - we do not understand much about the three-dimensional organisation of chromatin on larger scales. Standard textbooks and newspaper articles tell us that the structure is hierarchical (DNA double helix - nucleosome - chromatin fiber - higher order folding - whole chromosome) but all what scientists really agree on is the first compaction level, the nucleosome. Of course, we all have seen the X-shaped mitotic chromosome at the other end of the hierarchy but we have no clue about its internal structure.
This Lorentz workshop is devoted to chromatin structure beyond the nucleosome where we discuss precisely those length scales where things are not settled. The setting of the Lorentz center is perfect since its layout allows lots of spaces for discussions between the participants which is necessary for this subject. The time, 2012, is ideal since there is currently an explosion of experimental results and theoretical ideas so that some of the questions might be resolved in the very near future.
The wide range of expertises of our speakers (molecular biologists, biochemists, biophysicists, polymer theorists etc.) reflects the necessity of interdisciplinary collaboration. It is one of our major goals to bring these communities together in this workshop. Only by combining the various expertises we have a chance to understand genome mechanics at the nuclear scale.