Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cell memory mechanism discovered

16.08.2013
The cells in our bodies can divide as often as once every 24 hours, creating a new, identical copy.

DNA binding proteins called transcription factors are required for maintaining cell identity. They ensure that daughter cells have the same function as their mother cell, so that for example muscle cells can contract or pancreatic cells can produce insulin.

However, each time a cell divides the specific binding pattern of the transcription factors is erased and has to be restored in both mother and daughter cells. Previously it was unknown how this process works, but now scientists at Karolinska Institutet have discovered the importance of particular protein rings encircling the DNA and how these function as the cell's memory.

The DNA in human cells is translated into a multitude of proteins required for a cell to function. When, where and how proteins are expressed is determined by regulatory DNA sequences and a group of proteins, known as transcription factors, that bind to these DNA sequences. Each cell type can be distinguished based on its transcription factors, and a cell can in certain cases be directly converted from one type to another, simply by changing the expression of one or more transcription factors.

It is critical that the pattern of transcription factor binding in the genome be maintained. During each cell division, the transcription factors are removed from DNA and must find their way back to the right spot after the cell has divided. Despite many years of intense research, no general mechanism has been discovered which would explain how this is achieved.

"The problem is that there is so much DNA in a cell that it would be impossible for the transcription factors to find their way back within a reasonable time frame. But now we have found a possible mechanism for how this cellular memory works, and how it helps the cell remember the order that existed before the cell divided, helping the transcription factors find their correct places", explains Jussi Taipale, professor at Karolinska Institutet and the University of Helsinki, and head of the research team behind the discovery.

The results are now being published in the scientific journal Cell. The research group has produced the most complete map yet of transcription factors in a cell. They found that a large protein complex called cohesin is positioned as a ring around the two DNA strands that are formed when a cell divides, marking virtually all the places on the DNA where transcription factors were bound. Cohesin encircles the DNA strand as a ring does around a piece of string, and the protein complexes that replicate DNA can pass through the ring without displacing it. Since the two new DNA strands are caught in the ring, only one cohesin is needed to mark the two, thereby helping the transcription factors to find their original binding region on both DNA strands.

"More research is needed before we can be sure, but so far all experiments support our model," says Martin Enge, assistant professor at Karolinska Institutet.

Transcription factors play a pivotal role in many illnesses, including cancer as well as many hereditary diseases. The discovery that virtually all regulatory DNA sequences bind to cohesin may also end up having more direct consequences for patients with cancer or hereditary diseases. Cohesin would function as an indicator of which DNA sequences might contain disease-causing mutations.

"Currently we analyse DNA sequences that are directly located in genes, which constitute about three per cent of the genome. However, most mutations that have been shown to cause cancer are located outside of genes. We cannot analyse these in a reliable manner - the genome is simply too large. By only analysing DNA sequences that bind to cohesin, roughly one per cent of the genome, it would allow us to analyse an individual's mutations and make it much easier to conduct studies to identify novel harmful mutations," Martin Enge concludes.

This project was supported by the Center for Biosciences at Karolinska Institutet, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, Science for Life Laboratory, the Swedish Cancer Foundation, ERC Advanced Grant GROWTHCONTROL, and the EU FP7 Health project SYSCOL.

Publication:

Taipale et al.

"Transcription factor binding in human cells occurs in dense clusters formed around cohesin anchor sites",

Cell online 15 August 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.07.034.

For additional information, please contact:
Researcher
Martin Enge
Work: +46 (0)8 585 868 95
Mobile: +46 (0)76-237 07 27
E-mail:martin.enge@ki.se
Department of Biosciences and Nutrition
ProfessorJussi Taipale
University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institutet
Work: +46 (0)8 585 868 95
Mobile: +46 (0)72 282 4847
E-mail:jussi.taipale@ki.se

Martin Enge | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ki.se

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays
18.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient
18.10.2017 | KU Leuven

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>