A novel technique that enables scientists to measure and document tumor-inducing changes in DNA is providing new insight into the earliest events involved in the formation of leukemias, lymphomas and sarcomas, and could potentially lead to the discovery of ways to stop those events.
Developed by a team of researchers at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), both parts of the National Institutes of Health, and The Rockefeller University, the technology focuses on chromosomal rearrangements known as translocations. Translocations occur when a broken strand of DNA from one chromosome is erroneously joined with that of another chromosome. Sometimes these irregularities can be beneficial in that they enable the immune system to respond to a vast number of microorganisms and viruses. However, translocations can also result in tumors.
The findings are reported in the Sept. 30 issue of the journal Cell.
Translocations can take place during the course of normal cell division, when each chromosome — a single strand of DNA containing many genes — is copied verbatim to provide genetic information for the daughter cells. Sometimes, during this process, byproducts of normal metabolism or other factors can cause breaks in the DNA.
"The cell expresses specific enzymes whose primary purpose is to repair such lesions effectively, but when the enzymes mistakenly join pieces of two different chromosomes, the cell's genetic information is changed," said Rafael C. Casellas, Ph.D., senior investigator in the Genomics and Immunity Section at the NIAMS, who led the research team along with Michel C. Nussenzweig, M.D., Ph.D., from Rockefeller.
Casellas likens the phenomenon to breaking two sentences and then rejoining them incorrectly. For example, "The boy completed his homework." and "The dog went to the vet." might become "The dog completed his homework." or "The boy went to the vet." When a cell gets nonsensical information such as this, it can become deregulated and even malignant.
Scientists have known since the 1960s that recurrent translocations play a critical role in cancer. What was unclear was how these genetic abnormalities are created, since very few of them were studied, and only within the context of tumors, said Casellas. To better understand the nature of these tumor-inducing rearrangements, the authors had to create a system to visualize their appearance in normal, non-transformed cells.
The system the teams created involved introducing enzymes that recognize and cause damage at a particular sequence in the DNA into cells from mice, thereby constructing a genome where a unique site is broken continuously. The group then used a technique called polymerase chain reaction — which allows scientists to quickly amplify short sequences of DNA — to check all the sites in the genome that would get translocated to this particular break. Using this technique, they were able to examine more than 180,000 chromosomal rearrangements from 400 million white blood cells, called B cells.
Based on this large data set, the scientists were able to make several important observations about the translocation process. They learned that most of the translocations involve gene domains, rather than the space on the DNA between the genes. They also found that most translocations target active genes, with a clear bias for the beginning of the gene, as opposed to its middle or end. The team also showed that a particular enzyme that normally creates DNA breaks in B cells dramatically increases the incidence of translocations during the immune response. This feature explains the long-standing observation that more than 95 percent of human lymphomas and leukemias are of B cell origin.
"This knowledge is allowing us to understand how tumors are initiated," said Casellas. "It is the kind of information that in the near future, might help us prevent the development of cancer."
Additional support for this work was provided by Andre Nussenzweig, Ph.D., who heads the Laboratory of Genome Integrity of NCI.
The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about the NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS website at http://www.niams.nih.gov.
NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
Trish Reynolds | EurekAlert!
Improving memory with magnets
28.03.2017 | McGill University
Graphene-based neural probes probe brain activity in high resolution
28.03.2017 | Graphene Flagship
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy