Indexed on: 13 Apr '05Published on: 13 Apr '05Published in: Current Biology
Condensins are multi-subunit protein complexes that play a central role in mitotic chromosome assembly and segregation. The complexes contain 'structural maintenance of chromosomes' (SMC) ATPase subunits, and induce DNA supercoiling and looping in an ATP-hydrolysis-dependent manner in vitro. Vertebrate cells have two different condensin complexes, condensins I and II, each containing a unique set of regulatory subunits. Condensin II participates in an early stage of chromosome condensation within the prophase nucleus. Condensin I gains access to chromosomes only after the nuclear envelope breaks down, and collaborates with condensin II to assemble metaphase chromosomes with fully resolved sister chromatids. The complexes also play critical roles in meiotic chromosome segregation and in interphase processes such as gene repression and checkpoint responses. In bacterial cells, ancestral forms of condensins control chromosome dynamics. Dissecting the diverse functions of condensins is likely to be central to our understanding of genome organization, stability and evolution.