NYMC Faculty Publications


Nuclear Cytometry and Chromatin Organization

Document Type


Publication Date

August 2018




The nuclear-targeting chemical probe, for the detection and quantification of DNA within cells, has been a mainstay of cytometry-from the colorimetric Feulgen stain to smart fluorescent agents with tuned functionality. The level of nuclear structure and function at which the probe aims to readout, or indeed at which a DNA-targeted drug acts, is shadowed by a wide range of detection modalities and analytical methods. These methods are invariably limited in terms of the resolution attainable versus the volume occupied by targeted chromatin structures. The scalar challenge arises from the need to understand the extent and different levels of compaction of genomic DNA and how such structures can be re-modeled, reported, or even perturbed by both probes and drugs. Nuclear cytometry can report on the complex levels of chromatin order, disorder, disassembly, and even active disruption by probes and drugs. Nuclear probes can report defining features of clinical and therapeutic interest as in NETosis and other cell death processes. New cytometric approaches continue to bridge the scalar challenges of analyzing chromatin organization. Advances in super-resolution microscopy address the resolution and depth of analysis issues in cellular systems. Typical of recent insights into chromatin organization enabled by exploiting a DNA interacting probe is ChromEM tomography (ChromEMT). ChromEMT uses the unique properties of the anthraquinone-based cytometric dye DRAQ5 to reveal that local and global 3D chromatin structures effect differences in compaction. The focus of this review is nuclear and chromatin cytometry, with linked reference to DNA targeting probes and drugs as exemplified by the anthracenediones.