Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Mechanism for Human Gene Expression Discovered

04.07.2013
In a study that could change the way scientists view the process of protein production in humans, University of Chicago researchers have found a single gene that encodes two separate proteins from the same sequence of messenger RNA.

Published online July 3 in Cell, their finding elucidates a previously unknown mechanism in human gene expression and opens the door for new therapeutic strategies against a thus-far untreatable neurological disease.

“This is the first example of a mechanism in a higher organism in which one gene creates two proteins from the same mRNA transcript, simultaneously,” said Christopher Gomez, MD, PHD, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Chicago, who led the study. “It represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of how genes ultimately encode proteins.”

The human genome contains a similar number of protein-coding genes as the nematode worm (roughly 20,000). This disparity between biological complexity and gene count partially can be explained by the fact that individual genes can encode multiple protein variants via the production of different sequences of messenger RNA (mRNA)—short, mass-produced copies of genetic code that guide the creation of myriad cellular machinery.

Gomez and his team, which included first author Xiaofei Du, MD, discovered a new layer of complexity in this process of gene expression as they studied spinocerebellar ataxia type-6 (SCA6), a neurodegenerative disease that causes patients to slowly lose coordination of their muscles and eventually their ability to speak and stand. Human genetic studies identified its cause as a mutation in CACNA1A—a gene that encodes a calcium channel protein important for nerve cell function—resulting in extra copies of the amino acid glutamine.

However, although the gene, mutation and dysfunction are known, attempts to find the biological mechanism of the disease proved inconclusive. Calcium channel proteins with the mutation still seemed to function normally.

Suspecting another factor at play, Gomez and his team instead focused on á1ACT, a poorly understood, free-floating fragment of the CACNA1A calcium channel protein known to express extra copies of glutamine in SCA6 cells. The researchers first looked at its origin and found that, to their surprise, á1ACT was generated from the same mRNA sequence as the CACNA1A calcium channel.

For the first time, they had evidence of a human gene that coded one strand of mRNA that coded two separate, structurally distinct proteins. This occurred due to the presence of a special sequence in the mRNA known as an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES). Normally found at the beginning of an mRNA sequence, this IRES site sat in the middle, creating a second location for ribosomes, the cellular machines that read mRNA, to begin the process of protein production.

Looking at function, Gomez and his team found that normal á1ACT acted as a transcription factor and enhanced the growth of specific brain cells. Importantly, mutated á1ACT appeared to be toxic to nerve cells in a petri dish, and caused SCA6-like symptoms in an animal model.

The team hopes to discover other examples of human genes with similar IRES sites to better understand the implications of this new class of “bifunctional” genes on our basic biology. For now, they are focused on leveraging their findings toward helping SCA6 patients and already are working on ways to silence mutated á1ACT.

“We discovered this genetic phenomenon in the pursuit of a disease cause and, in finding it, immediately have a potential strategy for developing preclinical tools to treat that disease,” Gomez said. “If we can target the IRES and inhibit production of this mutant form of á1ACT in SCA6, we may be able to stop the progression of the disease.”

This work was supported by the National Ataxia Foundation, the National Organization of Rare Diseases and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Kevin Jiang | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.uchospitals.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>