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Chromatin is a DNA-protein complex that is densely packed in the cell nucleus. The nanoscale chromatin compaction plays critical roles in the modulation of cell nuclear processes. However, little is known about the spatiotemporal dynamics of chromatin compaction states because it remains difficult to quantitatively measure the chromatin compaction level in live cells. Here, we demonstrate a strategy, referenced as DYNAMICS imaging, for mapping chromatin organization in live cell nuclei by analyzing the dynamic scattering signal of molecular fluctuations. Highly sensitive optical interference microscopy, coherent brightfield (COBRI) microscopy, is implemented to detect the linear scattering of unlabeled chromatin at a high speed. A theoretical model is established to determine the local chromatin density from the statistical fluctuation of the measured scattering signal. DYNAMICS imaging allows us to reconstruct a speckle-free nucleus map that is highly correlated to the fluorescence chromatin image. Moreover, together with calibration based on nanoparticle colloids, we show that the DYNAMICS signal is sensitive to the chromatin compaction level at the nanoscale. We confirm the effectiveness of DYNAMICS imaging in detecting the condensation and decondensation of chromatin induced by chemical drug treatments. Importantly, the stable scattering signal supports a continuous observation of the chromatin condensation and decondensation processes for more than 1 h. Using this technique, we detect transient and nanoscopic chromatin condensation events occurring on a time scale of a few seconds. Label-free DYNAMICS imaging offers the opportunity to investigate chromatin conformational dynamics and to explore their significance in various gene activities.


Yi-Teng Hsiao, Chia-Ni Tsai, Te-Hsin Chen, Chia-Lung Hsieh. Label-Free Dynamic Imaging of Chromatin in Live Cell Nuclei by High-Speed Scattering-Based Interference Microscopy. ACS nano. 2022 Feb 22;16(2):2774-2788

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PMID: 34967599

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