Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research reveals new understanding of X chromosome inactivation

27.11.2012
In a paper published in the Nov. 21 issue of Cell, a team led by Mauro Calabrese, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina in the lab of Terry Magnuson, chair of the department of genetics and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, broadens the understanding of how cells regulate silencing of the X chromosome in a process known as X-inactivation.
“This is a classic example of a basic research discovery. X-inactivation is a flagship model for understanding how non-coding RNAs orchestrate large-scale control of gene expression. In the simplest terms, we are trying to understand how cells regulate expression of their genes. Our findings are relevant across the board -- by understanding how normal cells function we can apply that knowledge to similar situations in the understanding and treatment of disease,” said Calabrese.

Proper regulation of the X chromosome plays a crucial role in mammalian development. Females inherit a pair of X chromosomes from their parents, and the process of X-inactivation shuts down one of these two Xs.

“Males have XY. Females have two Xs. One of those Xs needs to get shut off. If it does not, it’s not compatible with life. It’s how we have evolved to equalize doses between males and females,” said Calabrese.

While the manner in which the X chromosome is deactivated has been actively studied for 50 years, the exact mechanisms that regulate the process remain a mystery. Calabrese’s research used high-throughput sequencing to determine the location and activity of chromosomes with far greater accuracy than previous research.

“Basically, this is using the sequencing technology as a high resolution microscope,” said Calabrese.

Under a microscope, the inactive X chromosome (Xi) appears as a cloud-like structure, because it is covered with a non-coding RNA known as Xist. In the traditional model of X-inactivation, genes located inside the cloud are completely silenced, with 15 percent of the genes from the inactive X chromosomes escaping to become active.

“The prevailing thought was that genes that escaped X inactivation were pulled out of the core and expressed out there,” said Calabrese.

The work of Calabrese’s team complicates the current model of X-inactivation by finding indications of gene activity inside the Xist cloud and the presence of inactive genes outside the cloud, both of which would not have been thought possible in the prevailing model.

“It’s kind of a subtle thing, but mechanistically it is a big difference,” said Calabrese.

Inside the Xist cloud, sequencing discovered traces of DNase I sensitivity, a feature usually linked to transcription activity. While other markers associated with transcription were absent, the presence of DNase I sensitivity suggested that the nucleus did recognize the inactive X as usable DNA, but an unknown suppressive mechanism was preventing genes from being activated.

“We were surprised to see that. If they were totally silent, you would expect this to be not there… This suggests that transcription factors or other proteins that bind DNA are still accessing the inactive X,” said Calabrese.

The other surprising findings involve the 15 percent of “escaper” genes from the inactive X. Calabrese found evidence that active genes were found both inside and outside the Xist cloud, and that silenced genes that lay alongside active genes outside of the Xist cloud remained inactive.

“If X-inactivation was a strict nuclear barrier, then pulling a gene outside the barrier would turn it on, but it has got to be more than that because when an inactivated gene that is beside an escaper is outside this domain, it is still turned off,” said Calabrese.

The presence of DNase I sensitivity within the Xist cloud and the finding of inactive genes outside of the cloud suggest that a site-specific mechanism is regulating genes on the chromosome in a more subtle way than the binary “on/off” function posited by the prevailing model. The exact mechanism for this remains unknown. Although Calabrese believes that Xist still plays a role, its exact function and whether other factors influence X-inactivation remain questions for future research.

“We know that Xist is required to turn off the inactive X. We know that. We have no idea how” said Calabrese.

Beyond revising the understanding of how X-inactivation works, Calabrese said that deeper understanding of the function of Xist could reveal more about the role of other non-coding RNAs in cellular development. These RNAs could become useful targets for future therapies and drug development.

“We know that too much expression of the wrong non-coding RNAs can lead to cancer. Also, forced expression of other non-coding RNAs can prevent cancer. Generally, we do not know how these RNAs work,” said Calabrese.

William Davis | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu

Further reports about: DNA DNase X chromosome X-inactivation non-coding RNAs transcription factor

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht More than just a mechanical barrier – epithelial cells actively combat the flu virus
04.05.2016 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

nachricht Discovery of a fundamental limit to the evolution of the genetic code
03.05.2016 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nuclear Pores Captured on Film

Using an ultra fast-scanning atomic force microscope, a team of researchers from the University of Basel has filmed “living” nuclear pore complexes at work for the first time. Nuclear pores are molecular machines that control the traffic entering or exiting the cell nucleus. In their article published in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers explain how the passage of unwanted molecules is prevented by rapidly moving molecular “tentacles” inside the pore.

Using high-speed AFM, Roderick Lim, Argovia Professor at the Biozentrum and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute of the University of Basel, has not only directly...

Im Focus: 2+1 is Not Always 3 - In the microworld unity is not always strength

If a person pushes a broken-down car alone, there is a certain effect. If another person helps, the result is the sum of their efforts. If two micro-particles are pushing another microparticle, however, the resulting effect may not necessarily be the sum their efforts. A recent study published in Nature Communications, measured this odd effect that scientists call “many body.”

In the microscopic world, where the modern miniaturized machines at the new frontiers of technology operate, as long as we are in the presence of two...

Im Focus: Tiny microbots that can clean up water

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New fabrication and thermo-optical tuning of whispering gallery microlasers

04.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Introducing the disposable laser

04.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

A new vortex identification method for 3-D complex flow

04.05.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>