The nucleus has been studied for well over 100 years, and chromatin has been the intense focus of experiments for decades. In this review, we focus on an understudied aspect of chromatin biology, namely the chromatin fiber polymer’s mechanical properties. In recent years, innovative work deploying interdisciplinary approaches including computational modeling, in vitro manipulations of purified and native chromatin have resulted in deep mechanistic insights into how the mechanics of chromatin might contribute to its function. The picture that emerges is one of a nucleus that is shaped as much by external forces pressing down upon it, as internal forces pushing outwards from the chromatin. These properties may have evolved to afford the cell a dynamic and reversible force-induced communication highway which allows rapid coordination between external cues and internal genomic function.
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