Molecular biology

DNA clusters help yeast in hard times

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Starving yeast cells reorganize their chromosomes into dense clusters in a way that might slow the ageing process.

Angela Taddei from the Curie Institute in Paris used cell imaging and molecular-genetics techniques to visualize the 3D organization of chromosomes inside cells of baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). The team found that starving yeast arrange their chromosomes so that their telomeres — long stretches of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that shorten with ageing — are tightly packed together in the centre of the cell's nucleus. The rearrangement is triggered by free radicals produced by the cell as it gradually exhausts the available food. Mutant strains that cannot produce these 'hyperclusters' do not survive starvation as well as their cluster-producing counterparts.

Packing telomeres together may prevent their degradation, allowing dormant yeast cells to survive temporary food shortages.

Genome Biol. 16, 206 (2015)

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