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 Hot vibrating gases under the electron spotlight
12.12.2017 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

nachricht Plankton swim against the current
12.12.2017 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Using drones to estimate crop damage by wild boars

12.12.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

How fires are changing the tundra’s face

12.12.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>