Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)

Molecular cloaking of H2A.Z on mortal DNA chromosomes during nonrandom segregation.

PMID 21905168


Although nonrandom sister chromatid segregation is a singular property of distributed stem cells (DSCs) that are responsible for renewing and repairing mature vertebrate tissues, both its cellular function and its molecular mechanism remain unknown. This situation persists in part because of the lack of facile methods for detecting and quantifying nonrandom segregating cells and for identifying chromosomes with immortal DNA strands, the cellular molecules that signify nonrandom segregation. During nonrandom segregation, at each mitosis, asymmetrically self-renewing DSCs continuously cosegregate to themselves the set of chromosomes that contain immortal DNA strands, which are the oldest DNA strands. Here, we report the discovery of a molecular asymmetry between segregating sets of immortal chromosomes and opposed mortal chromosomes (i.e., containing the younger set of DNA template strands) that constitutes a new convenient biomarker for detection of cells undergoing nonrandom segregation and direct delineation of chromosomes that bear immortal DNA strands. In both cells engineered with DSC-specific properties and ex vivo-expanded mouse hair follicle stem cells, the histone H2A variant H2A.Z shows specific immunodetection on immortal DNA chromosomes. Cell fixation analyses indicate that H2A.Z is present on mortal chromosomes as well but is cloaked from immunodetection, and the cloaking entity is acid labile. The H2A.Z chromosomal asymmetry produced by molecular cloaking provides a first direct assay for nonrandom segregation and for chromosomes with immortal DNA strands. It also seems likely to manifest an important aspect of the underlying mechanism(s) responsible for nonrandom sister chromatid segregation in DSCs.