Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find new genes for cancer, other diseases in plants, yeast and worms

14.04.2010
From deep within the genomes of organisms as diverse as plants, worms and yeast, scientists have uncovered new genes responsible for causing human diseases such as cancer and deafness.

The University of Texas at Austin scientists exploited the fact that all life on Earth shares common ancestry, and therefore shares sets of genes.

They found genes in yeast, for example, that humans use to make veins and arteries, even though yeasts have no blood vessels at all. Yeasts use those same genes to fix their cell walls in response to stress.

"Basically, we figured out a way to discover the genetic basis for disease by looking at organisms other than humans and finding disease equivalents," says Edward Marcotte, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

To find the new genes, Marcotte and his graduate students developed a computer algorithm that first sifts through vast sets of existing genomic data for worms, mice, yeast, plants and humans. The algorithm pairs up sets of genes that overlap between these organisms and humans.

In doing so, it highlights genes that are known to work together to do one thing in the non-human organism, but the function of which are not yet known in humans. The scientists can then test those new genes in the lab to determine their function.

"The basic essence of the method is that there are ancient modules of genes that have been reused in different contexts over time," says Marcotte. "So the yeast uses a particular module with a particular set of inputs and outputs to do one task. Humans use this same module with different inputs and outputs to do another."

In the case of blood vessel formation, or angiogenesis, the scientists found 62 genes that yeast use to fix their cell walls that matched with a few genes known to be responsible for vein and artery formation in humans.

Developmental biologist John Wallingford and his graduate students then tested the human equivalents of the 62 yeast genes in developing frog embryos in the lab. This confirmed that eight of those 62 genes help build blood vessels in animals. Several of these genes were also confirmed in humans.

The newly found human angiogenesis genes are great candidates for drugs, says Marcotte.

"Tumors fool your body into feeding them by initiating blood vessel growth, and that's the reason we're interested in angiogenesis," says Marcotte. "So, genes for angiogenesis are common targets for chemotherapy. Some of the most effective chemotherapies block angiogenesis."

The scientists also found a set of genes in nematode worms involved in human breast cancer. Surprisingly, it is the same set of genes in the worms responsible for determining how many male offspring a parent worm births.

In plants, they found a gene that is involved with a genetic disorder called Waardenburg syndrome, which causes a significant fraction of cases of human deafness. (Strangely, plants use the gene as part of their system for sensing gravity, called gravitropism.)

The researchers are teasing out genes for a variety of human disorders, from mental retardation and birth defects to cataracts. Their goal is to find new genetic targets for therapy.

"By exploiting evolution and looking at lower organisms that don't even have the organs we're looking for—blood vessels or even heads—but share some of the underlying molecular processes, we're able to discover genes relevant to human diseases," says Marcotte.

Marcotte admits it may seem odd to look for human disease genes in something like a plant or yeast, but that the information is proving to be extremely useful, if not surprising.

"When we found the genes in plants responsible for Waardenberg syndrome in humans," he says, "we were screaming in the halls."

Marcotte, Wallingford and colleagues published their research in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Marcotte and Wallingford are members of the Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology and the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology. Wallingford, associate professor of molecular cell and developmental biology, is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist. Co-authors Kriston McGary, Tae Joo Park, John Woods and Hye Ji Cha are graduate students at The University of Texas at Austin.

For more information contact: Edward Marcotte, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, 512-471-5435; John Wallingford, associate professor of molecular cell and developmental biology, 512-232-2784.

Lee Clippard | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utexas.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>