Multiscale unfolding with continuous scale transitions of the 3D human genome, showing chromosomes, loci, fibers, nucleosomes, double helix, and flattened base pairs. Scales 1–4 are composed of details from the next-lower scale, and linearized based on the elements’ own positions.
We present Multiscale Unfolding, an interactive technique for illustratively visualizing multiple hierarchical scales of DNA in a single view, showing the genome at different scales and demonstrating how one scale spatially folds into the next. The DNA's extremely long sequential structurearranged differently on several distinct scale levelsis often lost in traditional 3D depictions, mainly due to its multiple levels of dense spatial packing and the resulting occlusion. Furthermore, interactive exploration of this complex structure is cumbersome, requiring visibility management like cut-aways. In contrast to existing temporally controlled multiscale data exploration, we allow viewers to always see and interact with any of the involved scales. For this purpose we separate the depiction into constant-scale and scale transition zones. Constant-scale zones maintain a single-scale representation, while still linearly unfolding the DNA. Inspired by illustration, scale transition zones connect adjacent constant-scale zones via level unfolding, scaling, and transparency. We thus represent the spatial structure of the whole DNA macro-molecule, maintain its local organizational characteristics, linearize its higher-level organization, and use spatially controlled, understandable interpolation between neighboring scales. We also contribute interaction techniques that provide viewers with a coarse-to-fine control for navigating within our all-scales-in-one-view representations and visual aids to illustrate the size differences. Overall, Multiscale Unfolding allows viewers to grasp the DNA's structural composition from chromosomes to the atoms, with increasing levels of "unfoldedness," and can be applied in data-driven illustration and communication.