Using differential scanning calorimetry and complementary ultrastructural observations, we have characterized the status of chromatin during the transformation of rat hepatocytes in the resistant hepatocyte model of Solt and Farber (1976. Nature (Lond.). 263:701-703). Differential scanning calorimetry affords a measure of the degree of condensation of chromatin in situ and has therefore been used in this work for the purpose of establishing the nature of the structural changes associated with the emergence of successive cellular populations. Since the resistant hepatocyte model generates a series of synchronous phenotypic changes, it was possible to determine unambiguously the content of heterochromatin at each step of the process. The higher-order structure undergoes a partial relaxation in early developing nodules, isolated 16 weeks after initiation; the thermal transition at 90°C, which is characteristic of noninteracting core particles, increases with respect to control hepatocytes. Dramatic changes occurr in persistent (46-week) nodules. The 90°C endotherm dominates the thermogram, while the transition at 107°C, corresponding to the denaturation of the core particle packaged within the heterochromatic domains, disappears. The complete loss of the higher-order structure at this stage of transformation has been further verified by ultrastructural observations on thin nuclear sections. Ten-nm filaments, having a beaded appearance, are scattered throughout the nucleoplasm and clearly result from the decondensation of 30-nm-thick fibers. This catastrophic relaxation process cannot be related to an effective increase in gene activity. Rather, our observations suggest that during transformation chromatin is in a state of high transcriptional competence associated with the alert of general cellular programs. This view is consistent with the finding that in persistent nodules the DNA is extensively hypomethylated with respect to normal liver.
|Number of pages||10|
|Publication status||Published - 1993|
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