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Biophysical ordering transitions underlie genome 3D re-organization during cricket spermiogenesis

Abstract

Spermiogenesis is a radical process of differentiation whereby sperm cells acquire a compact and specialized morphology to cope with the constraints of sexual reproduction while preserving their main cargo, an intact copy of the paternal genome. In animals, this often involves the replacement of most histones by sperm-specific nuclear basic proteins (SNBPs). Yet, how the SNBP-structured genome achieves compaction and accommodates shaping remain largely unknown. Here, we exploited confocal, electron and super-resolution microscopy observations, coupled with polymer modeling simulations to identify the higher-order architecture of sperm chromatin in the needle-shaped nucleus of the emerging model cricket Gryllus bimaculatus . Accompanying spermatid differentiation and shaping, the SNBP-based genome was strikingly reorganized as ~25nm-thick fibers orderly coiled along the elongated nucleus axis. This chromatin spool was further found to achieve large-scale helical twisting in the final stages of spermiogenesis, favoring its ultracompaction. Through a combination of microscopy observations and polymer simulations, we revealed that these dramatic transitions may be recapitulated by a surprisingly simple biophysical principle based on a nucleated rigidification of chromatin linked to the histone-to-SNBP transition within a confined nuclear space. Our work highlights a unique, liquid crystal-like mode of higher-order genome organization in ultracompact cricket sperm completely distinct from nucleosomal chromatin, and establishes a multidisciplinary methodological framework to explore the diversity of non-canonical modes of DNA organization. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Animal sperm cells are highly compact and atypically shaped compared to other cell types. How DNA is packaged and organized in the 3D space of sperm cell nuclei to cope with these constraints is poorly understood. In this work, we identified an original and elegant solution to this problem in crickets, whereby DNA fibers orderly spool and twist to fit into ultracompact, needle-shaped sperm cells. To understand this reorganization, we modeled DNA fibers in the nucleus as polymers and found that a relatively simple mechanism through which fibers become more rigid bit by bit can largely recapitulate our observations. Our multidisciplinary work highlights a simple solution to compact DNA to extreme levels in specialized nuclei.
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hal-03797978 , version 1 (05-10-2022)

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Guillermo Orsi, Maxime M.C. Tortora, Béatrice Horard, Dominique Baas, Jean-Philippe Kleman, et al.. Biophysical ordering transitions underlie genome 3D re-organization during cricket spermiogenesis. 2022. ⟨hal-03797978⟩
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