Loop extrusion has emerged as a prominent hypothesis for how SMC complexes shape chromosomes – single molecule in vitro observations have yielded fascinating images of this process. When not extruding loops, SMC complexes are known to topologically entrap one or more DNAs. Here, we review how structural insight into the SMC complex cohesin has led to a molecular framework for both activities: a Brownian ratchet motion, associated with topological DNA entry, might repeat itself to elicit loop extrusion. After contrasting alternative loop extrusion models, we explore whether topological loading or loop extrusion is more adept at explaining in vivo SMC complex function. SMC variants that experimentally separate topological loading from loop extrusion will in the future probe their respective contributions to chromosome biology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology