With the full sequence of the human genome now in hand, scientists are turning renewed attention to the molecular processes that regulate the genes encoded by DNA. Estimates are that only a tenth of all genes are expressed at any given time. What controls when and where genes are activated?
Increasingly, researchers believe that the mechanisms that govern gene activity themselves resemble a complicated non-DNA code – an intricate pattern of activity among the molecules that package and control access to the DNA. They suspect that the coordinated interplay of a number of specific enzymes is required to turn on a particular gene.
Now, in a new study using the techniques of structural biology, investigators at The Wistar Institute have shown in detail how two enzymes work together to activate a specific gene by loosening, at that genes location, the compact coils of DNA and packaging proteins called chromatin. The findings bolster the emerging theory that something like a code is responsible for orchestrating genetic activity. A report on the research appears in the August issue of Molecular Cell, published August 28.
Franklin Hoke | EurekAlert!
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