The research was led by Lu Bai, an assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, and physics at Penn State University, in collaboration with David Stillman at the University of Utah. The discovery, which may have implications for the study of diseases such as cancer, will be published in a print edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Three fluorescent images of yeast cells as they grow from two single cells (left) to a small cell cluster (right). The green color represents the expression of the HO gene. The red color at the bud neck is a marker for cell cycle.
Credit: Bai lab, Penn State University
Bai explained that gene expression -- the process by which certain genes are regulated or turned "on" or "off" -- is one of the most fundamental processes in the life of any biological cell. Different programs of gene expression -- even when cells have the same DNA -- can lead to different cellular behavior and function. For example, even though a human muscle cell and a human nerve cell have identical DNA, they behave and function very differently.
Misregulation of gene expression can affect cell fitness and lead to diseases. "Gene expression tends to vary from cell to cell," Bai said. "Misregulation may happen in a small fraction of cells, and these cells may cause disease later on. Therefore it is important to study gene regulation at the single-cell level."
Using a fluorescent video of cell division, Bai and her team were able to observe how a gene called HO was expressed in single yeast cells over multiple cell divisions. Normally, the expression of HO allows budding yeast to change sex -- from "male" to "female" and vice versa. "Interestingly, HO expression -- and thus sex change -- is supposed to occur only in 'mother' cells but not the newly budded 'daughter' cells," Bai explained.
After observing the video, team members found that HO was expressed in 98 percent of the mother cells but also in 3 percent of the daughter cells. "The vast majority of both the mother cells and the daughter cells responded as they were supposed to," Bai said. "But, in a small percentage of the cells, the gene regulation went wrong."
The pressing question for Bai's team then was, why did the HO gene regulation fail in a small population of cells -- in 2 percent of the mother cells and 3 percent of the daughter cells? She discovered that the answer seems to lie in histones, a major protein complex associated with DNA. "We found that changes in histone configurations affect the fraction of cells in which the HO expression was misregulated.
In addition, we found that, in some conditions, the HO expression can 'remember' itself: If HO is turned on in one cell, it is more likely to be turned on in its progeny cells. We showed that this short-term memory of the HO expression seems to be inherited through histone modifications," Bai said. She added that further study of gene expression, specifically at the level of individual cells, can have important implications for disease research.
In addition to Bai and Stillman, other researchers who contributed to this study include Qian Zhang, Youngdae Yoona, Juan Antonio Raygoza Garay, and Michael M. Mwangi from Penn State; Yaxin Yu and Emily J. Parnell from the University of Utah; and Frederick R. Cross from the Rockefeller University.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
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
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News