Cells lacking PRC2 (top) or cells containing an altered histone that can no longer be tagged (bottom) show the same effect: a gene that normally should be shut down, is activated (red signal). As opposed to the surrounding wild type cells marked with green.
Figure: Ana R. Pengelly/ Copyright: MPI of Biochemistry
Using the model organism Drosophila - the fruit fly - the scientists now generated animals with cells expressing an altered histone protein to which PRC2 can no longer add the tag. These cells cannot keep genes inactive anymore and many cell fate decisions go awry, exactly like in cells that lack the PRC2 enzyme. “This observation demonstrates that the business end is the tag on the histone and not on some other protein” says Ana Pengelly, the PhD student who conducted the experiments.
Her colleague Omer Copur adds: “The approach we used permits us to now also investigate the function of other tags on histone proteins that have a different chemical nature.” The insight gained from the work on PRC2 provides a strong impetus to figure how this tag alters the beads-on-a-string structure of genes and thereby controls gene activity.
Anja Konschak | Max-Planck-Institut
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