Investigators from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have made a breakthrough in identifying functional elements in the human genome, according to a report published online today in Nature Genetics.
While the DNA sequence can identify genes (the 'what') within the genome, it cannot answer the more fundamental questions of 'how,' 'when' and 'where' gene products are expressed. However, the LICR team and collaborators have developed a novel method to identify and predict the 'promoter' and 'enhancer' regions that switch on transcription, the first step in gene expression. This study is an important step towards large-scale functional annotation of 'enhancers,' which establish the rate at which gene expression occurs and determine the tissues in which genes are expressed.
"The human genome is packaged within each cell by chromatin, a structure composed of DNA wrapped around proteins called histones," explains lead author Nathaniel Heintzman, from LICR and the UCSD Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. "We used genome-scale approaches to analyze the chromatin architecture in human cells and discovered distinct signatures of modified histones that correspond to known promoters and enhancers. These findings enabled us to generate computational algorithms that identified hundreds of novel genomic regions with regulatory potential." Moreover, says Heintzman, this 'histone code' was able to accurately distinguish between promoters, from which gene transcription is directly initiated, and enhancer regions - some of which are very distant from the target gene - to which transcription-activating cofactors bind.
According to LICR's Dr. Bing Ren, the study's senior author and assistant professor at UCSD's Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, the method is widely applicable and its unbiased approach is likely to yield new information on gene expression and how it is altered in disease. "The beauty of this approach is that it utilizes a chemical signature present on histones but not DNA. Existing methods to predict enhancers rely on the DNA sequence alone, but these are inadequate because we have an incomplete understanding of the sequence features that identify enhancers. The elucidation of a common histone modification signature will enable scientists to quickly identify enhancers and promoters for a gene, which will lead in turn to rapid identification of factors that control its expression." This method might also be used to identify the disruptions in gene networks that occur during cancer progression, says Dr. Ren, which might lead to novel strategies for cancer diagnosis.
Sarah L. White, Ph.D. | EurekAlert!
A novel socio-ecological approach helps identifying suitable wolf habitats
17.02.2017 | Universität Zürich
New, ultra-flexible probes form reliable, scar-free integration with the brain
16.02.2017 | University of Texas at Austin
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering
17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering
17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine