Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Reading between the genes

03.06.2016

Our genes decide about many things in our lives – what we look like, which talents we have, or what kind of diseases we develop. For a long time dismissed as “junk DNA”, we now know that also the regions between the genes fulfil vital functions. They contain a complex control machinery with thousands of molecular switches that regulate the activity of our genes. Until now, however, regulatory DNA regions have been hard to find. Scientists around Patrick Cramer at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen and Julien Gagneur at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now developed a method to find regulatory DNA regions which are active and controlling genes.

The genes in our DNA contain detailed assembly instructions for proteins, the “workers” carrying out and controlling virtually all processes in our cells. To ensure that each protein fulfils its tasks at the right time in the right place of our body, the activity of the corresponding gene has to be tightly controlled.


In contrast to older methods, TT-Seq (dark blue) allows scientists to gain a very consistent picture of all RNA molecules in the cell.

Margaux Michel, Patrick Cramer / Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

This function is taken over by regulatory DNA regions between the genes, which act as a complex control machinery. “Regulatory DNA regions are essential for development in humans, tissue preservation, and the immune response, among others,” explains Patrick Cramer, head of the Department for Molecular Biology at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry. “Furthermore, they play an important role in various diseases. For example, patients suffering from cancer or cardiovascular conditions show many mutations in exactly those DNA regions,” the biochemist says.

When regulatory DNA regions are active, they are first copied into RNA. “The resulting RNA molecules have a great disadvantage for us researchers though: The cell rapidly degrades them, thus they were hard to find until now,” reports Julien Gagneur, who recently moved with this group from the Gene Center of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich to the TUM. “But exactly those short-lived RNA molecules often act as vital molecular switches that specifically activate genes needed in a certain place of our body. Without these molecular switches, our genes would not be functional.”

An anchor for short-lived molecular switches

Björn Schwalb and Margaux Michel, members of Cramer’s team, as well as Benedikt Zacher, scientist in Gagneur’s group, have now succeeded in developing a highly sensitive method to catch and identify even very short-lived RNA molecules – the so-called TT-Seq (transient transcriptome sequencing) method. The results are reported in the latest issue of the renowned scientific journal Science on June 3rd.

In order to catch the RNA molecules, the three junior researchers used a trick: They supplied cells with a molecule acting as a kind of anchor for a couple of minutes. The cells subsequently incorporated the anchor into each RNA they made during the course of the experiment. With the help of the anchor, the scientists were eventually able to fish the short-lived RNA molecules out of the cell and examine them.

“The RNA molecules we caught with the TT-Seq method provide a snapshot of all DNA regions that were active in the cell at a certain time – the genes as well as the regulatory regions between genes that were so hard to find until now,” Cramer explains. “With TT-Seq we now have a suitable tool to learn more about how genes are controlled in different cell types and how gene regulatory programs work,” Gagneur adds.

In many cases, researchers have a pretty good idea which genes play a role in a certain disease, but do not know which molecular switches are involved. The scientists around Cramer and Gagneur are hoping to be able to use the new method to uncover key mechanisms that play a role during the emergence or course of a disease. In a next step they want to apply their technique to blood cells to better understand the progress of a HIV infection in patients suffering from AIDS.

Original publication
Björn Schwalb, Margaux Michel, Benedikt Zacher, Katja Frühauf, Carina Demel, Achim Tresch, Julien Gagneur, Patrick Cramer: TT-Seq maps the human transient transcriptome.
Science 352,1225-1228 (2016), doi: 10.1126/science.aad9841.

Contact
Prof. Dr. Patrick Cramer, Department of Molecular Biology
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 201-2800
E-mail: patrick.cramer@mpibpc.mpg.de

Prof. Dr. Julien Gagneur, Computational Biology Group
Technical University of Munich
Phone: +49 89 289-19411
E-mail: gagneur@in.tum.de

Dr. Anne Morbach, Public Relations Office
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 201-1308
E-mail: anne.morbach@mpibpc.mpg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpibpc.mpg.de/15377790/pr_1620 – original press release
http://www.mpibpc.mpg.de/cramer – Website of the Department of Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen
http://www.gagneurlab.in.tum.de – Website of the Computational Biology Group at the Technical University of Munich

Dr. Carmen Rotte | Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How protein islands form
15.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>