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Genes involved in cell growth and cell division identified


A recent study shows that hundreds of genes contribute to cell growth and cell division. For the first time these genes, many of which are potential contributors to cancer, have been mapped in a single systematic study.

The group led by Professor Jussi Taipale (University of Helsinki and National Public Health Institute of Finland) has identified genes contributing to cell growth and cell division by systematic silencing of most of the genes in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. The results are published in the February 23. issue of the journal Nature.

The group of Jussi Taipale belongs to the Molecular and Cancer Biology Research Program of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Helsinki, and the Department of Molecular Medicine of the National Public Health Institute, Finland. The group is part of the Finnish Academy Centre of Excellence for the Translational Genome-Scale Biology.

Drosophila cells are an excellent model system to also understand the regulation of growth in human cells as the core machinery involved in this process is very similar in all multicellular organisms from insects to humans. Because the regulation of cell growth is central for embryonic development as well as cancer, it is highly important to have a holistic view on these processes.

This study belongs to the emerging field of systems biology, which aims to a comprehensive understanding of cellular mechanisms by carrying out large-scale experiments and combining the data using bioinformatics. The screening of the genes was performed in High Throughput Center of the University of Helsinki.

The genome sequencing projects have revealed a large number of genes with unknown functions. The current study lead by professor Taipale identified a number of such functionally unannotated genes in addition to the identification of the majority of known growth regulators. This set of genes provides an excellent starting point for future studies concentrating on the interactions between genes involved in cell growth.

The research was performed by Mikael Björklund, Minna Taipale, Markku Varjosalo, Juha Saharinen, Juhani Lahdenperä, and Jussi Taipale. This study was financed by the Finnish Academy, Biocentrum Helsinki, University of Helsinki, The Sigrid Juselius Foundation, The Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Maud Kuistila Memorial Foundation and the Finnish Cancer Organisations.

Paivi Lehtinen | alfa
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