[Back to Issue 4 ToC] [Back to Journal Contents] [Back to Biochemistry (Moscow) Home page]
[View Full Article] [Download Reprint (PDF)]

REVIEW: Crowding, Entropic Forces, and Confinement: Crucial Factors for Structures and Functions in the Cell Nucleus

R. Hancock

Biosystems Group, Biotechnology Centre, Silesian University of Technology, 44-100 Gliwice, Poland and Laval University Cancer Research Centre, Québec, Canada G1R2J6; E-mail: ronald.hancock@crhdq.ulaval.ca

Received October 3, 2017; Revision received November 27, 2017
The view of the cell nucleus as a crowded system of colloid particles and that chromosomes are giant self-avoiding polymers is stimulating rapid advances in our understanding of its structure and activities, thanks to concepts and experimental methods from colloid, polymer, soft matter, and nano sciences and to increased computational power for simulating macromolecules and polymers. This review summarizes current understanding of some characteristics of the molecular environment in the nucleus, of how intranuclear compartments are formed, and of how the genome is highly but precisely compacted, and underlines the crucial, subtle, and sometimes unintuitive effects on structures and reactions of entropic forces caused by the high concentration of macromolecules in the nucleus.
KEY WORDS: cell nucleus, macromolecular crowding, confinement, entropic forces, phase separation, chromosomes

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297918040041