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Protein Maintains Order in the Nucleus

Two metres of DNA are packed into the cell nucleus, presumably based on a strictly defined arrangement. Researchers working with biologist Patrick Heun from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg have now succeeded in explaining a phenomenon, which was first observed 40 years ago. The centromeres, namely the structures at the primary constriction of the X-shaped chromosomes, are clustered in a few specific locations in the cell nucleus. Using fruit flies as a model, the researchers have shown that a single protein plays a key role in this process. If this protein is missing, DNA damage in the cell increases and cell division is impaired.

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