Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Mechanisms of Gene Inactivation may prevent Aging and Cancer

24.02.2017

Every cell in our body contains the complete DNA library. So-called methyl groups regulate that in body tissues only the genetic information is expressed that is indeed needed in this tissue. Now, for the first time, researchers from the Leibniz Institute on Aging in Jena, Germany, verified that a lack of methyl groups in the gene body leads to an incorrect gene activation and, as a consequence, may lead to the emergence of cancer. The stunning results were published in the renowned Journal Nature on February 22, 2017.

Each cell in the body contains the basic building plan of our entire organism. It is written in the “DNA” and comprises single genes which determine specific individual attributes. Gene expression is strictly regulated in order to build tissue-specific cells with tissue-specific attributes. For example in an intestinal cell, the genetic information is activated that forms the cell’s identity as intestinal cell.


Dr. Francesco Neri and his colleagues discovered how the new mechanism of gene inactivation could protect against aging and cancer.

Graphic: Kerstin Wagner / FLI; Source: Fotolia.com @ Andrea Danti

In this strictly regulated process, methyl groups play an important role. If they are enzymatically bound to a gene’s starting point, known as the promoter, the respective gene is inactivated. In this case, the DNA is “methylated”. During aging as well as during the development of age-induced diseases like cancer, the activation of genetic information is increasingly defective. However, as of yet, the detailed processes of these errors and the role that DNA methylation has in these processes have only poorly been understood.

A lack of methyl groups in the gene body may develop cancer

It was known for some time that DNA methylation at the promoters of a gene fulfills the function of an on/off switch. One of the big open questions in Epigenetics is why DNA within the gene body (where the important genetic information is located) is methylated as well. This question was now addressed by scientist Francesco Neri from the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) in Jena, Germany, and his colleagues from the Human Genetics Foundation and the Torino University, Italy.

They proved that genes are also aberrantly activated if – beyond promoters – DNA methylation is missing within the gene body. As a consequence, aberrant proteins are produced, which impinge on the cell structure. Thus, the function and identity of a cell are massively disrupted: cells degrade, cancer may emerge. These results, which answer one of the biggest open questions in Epigenetics, were published in the renowned Journal Nature on February 22, 2017.

Gene expression can be regulated chemically: A target for cancer therapy?

“What makes these results so stunning is that we finally are able to explain why DNA methylation is very often missing in cancer cells. Thus, DNA is not protected from miss-activation, leading to the production of more and more aberrant proteins and the dominance of cancer cells”, Dr. Francesco Neri, who is Junior Group Leader at the FLI and one of the study’s leaders, explains.

But in contrast to the accumulation of damages within the DNA, these epigenetic alterations as we see it for DNA methylation, can– in principal – be regulated by chemical compounds. “This new knowledge that a lack of DNA methylation at the gene body may lead to the production of aberrant proteins, might offer a new target for cancer therapy. If we succeed to find a way to traffic methyl groups to non-methylated DNA sequences of cancer cells, we could possibly stop proliferation of these cells”, Dr. Neri hopes. But there is still a long way to go.

Publication

Neri F, Rapelli S, Krepelova A, Incarnato D, Parlato C, Basile G, Maldotti M, Anselmi F, Oliviero O. Intragenic DNA methylation prevents spurious transcription initiation. Nature 2017, doi:10.1038/nature21373.

Contact

Dr. Evelyn Kästner
Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI), Beutenbergstr. 11, D-07745 Jena
Tel.: 03641-656373, Fax: 03641-656351, E-Mail: presse@leibniz-fli.de

Background information

The Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) is the first German research organization dedicated to biomedical aging research since 2004. More than 330 members from over 30 nations explore the molecular mechanisms underlying aging processes and age-associated diseases. For more information, please visit http://www.leibniz-fli.de.

The Leibniz Association connects 91 independent research institutions that range in focus from the natural, engineering and environmental sciences via economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities. Leibniz Institutes address issues of social, economic and ecological relevance. They conduct knowledge-driven and applied basic research, maintain scientific infrastructure and provide research-based services. The Leibniz Association identifies focus areas for knowledge transfer to policy-makers, academia, business and the public. Leibniz Institutes collaborate intensively with universities – in the form of “WissenschaftsCampi” (thematic partnerships between university and non-university research institutes), for example – as well as with industry and other partners at home and abroad. They are subject to an independent evaluation procedure that is unparalleled in its transparency. Due to the institutes’ importance for the country as a whole, they are funded jointly by the Federation and the Länder, employing some 18,600 individuals, including 9,500 researchers. The entire budget of all the institutes is approximately 1.7 billion EUR. See http://www.leibniz-association.eu for more information.

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.leibniz-fli.de - Website Leibniz Institute on Aging - Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) Jena

Dr. Kerstin Wagner | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How molecules teeter in a laser field
18.01.2019 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Discovery of enhanced bone growth could lead to new treatments for osteoporosis
18.01.2019 | University of California - Los Angeles

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>