The eukaryotic genome is organized in a manner that allows folding of the genetic material in the confined space of the cell nucleus, while at the same time enabling its physiological function. A major principle of spatial genome organization is the non-random position of genomic loci relative to other loci and to nuclear bodies. The mechanisms that determine the spatial position of a locus, and how position affects function, are just beginning to be characterized. Initial results suggest that there are multiple, gene-specific mechanisms and the involvement of a wide range of cellular machineries. In this Commentary, we review recent findings from candidate approaches and unbiased screening methods that provide initial insight into the cellular mechanisms of positioning and their functional consequences. We highlight several specific mechanisms, including tethering of genome regions to the nuclear periphery, passage through S-phase and histone modifications, that contribute to gene positioning in yeast, plants and mammals.
- Received January 23, 2017.
- Accepted February 28, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd