Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

We investigate the three-dimensional (3D) conformations of the α-globin locus at the single-allele level in murine embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and erythroid cells, combining polymer physics models and high-resolution Capture-C data. Model predictions are validated against independent fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) data measuring pairwise distances, and Tri-C data identifying three-way contacts. The architecture is rearranged during the transition from ESCs to erythroid cells, associated with the activation of the globin genes. We find that in ESCs, the spatial organization conforms to a highly intermingled 3D structure involving non-specific contacts, whereas in erythroid cells the α-globin genes and their enhancers form a self-contained domain, arranged in a folded hairpin conformation, separated from intermingling flanking regions by a thermodynamic mechanism of micro-phase separation. The flanking regions are rich in convergent CTCF sites, which only marginally participate in the erythroid-specific gene-enhancer contacts, suggesting that beyond the interaction of CTCF sites, multiple molecular mechanisms cooperate to form an interacting domain.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Rep

Publication Date





2125 - 2135.e5


gene regulation, globin loci, higher-order chromatin organization, polymer physics