Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Patterns of new DNA letter in brain suggest distinct function

31.10.2011
Vocabulary of epigenetics expanding

In 2009, the DNA alphabet expanded. Scientists discovered that an extra letter or "sixth nucleotide" was surprisingly abundant in DNA from stem cells and brain cells.

Now, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have mapped the patterns formed by that letter in the brains of mice, observing how its pattern of distribution in the genome changes during development and aging.

Those patterns, stable or dynamic depending on the gene, suggest that 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) has its own distinct functions, which still need to be fully brought to light.

"Our data tells us that 5-hmC is not just an intermediate state," says senior author Peng Jin, PhD, associate professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine. "It looks like it has specific functions in stem cells and brain. 5-hmC may poise a gene to be turned on after being repressed."

The results were published online Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience. The paper is the first report on how the patterns of 5-hmC's distribution change in mouse brain during development, and also contains data on 5-hmC in DNA samples from human brain.

Postdoctoral fellow Keith Szulwach and instructor Xuekun Li are co-first authors, and collaborators from the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison contributed to the paper.

5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) is an epigenetic modification of cytosine, one of the four bases or "letters" making up DNA. Epigenetic modifications are changes in the way genes are turned on or off, but are not part of the underlying DNA sequence. 5-hmC resembles 5-methylcytosine (5-mC), another modified DNA base that scientists have been studying for decades. Until recently, chemical techniques did not allow scientists to tell the difference between them.

In contrast to 5-mC, 5-hmC appears to be enriched on active genes, especially in brain cells. 5-mC is generally found on genes that are turned off or on repetitive "junk" regions of the genome. When stem cells change into the cells that make up blood, muscle or brain, 5-mC helps shut off genes that aren't supposed to be turned on. Changes in 5-mC's distribution also underpin a healthy cell's transformation into a cancer cell.

It looks like 5-hmC can only appear on DNA where 5-mC already was present. This could be a clue that 5-hmC could be a transitory sign that the cell is going to remove a 5-mC mark. Jin says the patterns his team sees tell a different story, at least for some genes. On those genes, the level of 5-hmC is stably maintained and increases with age.

The Emory team used a method for chemically labeling 5-hmC they developed in cooperation with scientists at the University of Chicago. They find that 5-hmC is ten times more abundant in brain than in stem cells, and it is found more in the body of some genes, compared to stem cells.

In addition, the researchers found a relative lack of 5-hmC on X chromosomes in both males and females. That result is a surprise, Jin says, because it was already known that the X chromosome is subject to a special form of regulation in females only. Males have one X chromosome and females have two, and in female cells one of the X chromosomes is inactivated.

Jin's team is beginning to map how 5-hmC changes in neurological disorders, including Rett syndrome and autism, and refining techniques for detecting 5-hmC in DNA at high resolution.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Simons Foundation and the Emory Genetics Discovery Initiative.

Reference: K.E. Szulwach et al 5-hydroxymethylcytosine–mediated epigenetic dynamics during postnatal neurodevelopment and aging. Nature Neuro. (2011).

Writer: Quinn Eastman

The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory's health sciences:
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

Holly Korschun | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.emory.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht 'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice 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: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | 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

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>