Sister chromatid cohesion: A simple concept with a complex reality

Itay Onn, Jill M. Heidinger-Pauli, Vincent Guacci, Elçin Ünal, Douglas E. Koshland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

255 Scopus citations


In eukaryotes, the process of sister chromatid cohesion holds the two sister chromatids (the replicated chromosomes) together from DNA replication to the onset of chromosome segregation. Cohesion is mediated by cohesin, a four-subunit SMC (structural maintenance of chromosome) complex. Cohesin and cohesion are required for proper chromosome segregation, DNA repair, and gene expression. To carry out these functions, cohesion is regulated by elaborate mechanisms involving a growing list of cohesin auxiliary factors. These factors control the timing and position of cohesin binding to chromatin, activate chromatin-bound cohesin to become cohesive, and orchestrate the orderly dissolution of cohesion. The 45-nm ringlike architecture of soluble cohesin is compatible with dramatically different mechanisms for both chromatin binding and cohesion generation. Solving the mechanism of cohesion and its complex regulation presents significant challenges but offers the potential to provide important insights into higher-order chromosome organization and chromosome biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-129
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Chromosome segregation
  • Chromosome structure
  • Cohesin
  • DNA repair
  • Genomic integrity


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