Chromatin hydrodynamics

Robijn Bruinsma, Alexander Y. Grosberg, Yitzhak Rabin, Alexandra Zidovska

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Following recent observations of large scale correlated motion of chromatin inside the nuclei of live differentiated cells, we present a hydrodynamic theory - the two-fluid model - in which the content of a nucleus is described as a chromatin solution with the nucleoplasm playing the role of the solvent and the chromatin fiber that of a solute. This system is subject to both passive thermal fluctuations and active scalar and vector events that are associated with free energy consumption, such as ATP hydrolysis. Scalar events drive the longitudinal viscoelastic modes (where the chromatin fiber moves relative to the solvent) while vector events generate the transverse modes (where the chromatin fiber moves together with the solvent). Using linear response methods, we derive explicit expressions for the response functions that connect the chromatin density and velocity correlation functions to the corresponding correlation functions of the active sources and the complex viscoelastic moduli of the chromatin solution. We then derive general expressions for the flow spectral density of the chromatin velocity field. We use the theory to analyze experimental results recently obtained by one of the present authors and her co-workers. We find that the time dependence of the experimental data for both native and ATP-depleted chromatin can be well-fitted using a simple model - the Maxwell fluid - for the complex modulus, although there is some discrepancy in terms of the wavevector dependence. Thermal fluctuations of ATP-depleted cells are predominantly longitudinal. ATP-active cells exhibit intense transverse long wavelength velocity fluctuations driven by force dipoles. Fluctuations with wavenumbers larger than a few inverse microns are dominated by concentration fluctuations with the same spectrum as thermal fluctuations but with increased intensity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1871-1881
    Number of pages11
    JournalBiophysical journal
    Issue number9
    StatePublished - May 6 2014

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biophysics


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