Scientists find structure relevant to cell growth and cancer
Researchers discovered a special type of molecular structure that helps keep genes properly turned off until the structure is ejected from those genes in a regulated manner to help turn the genes on. The discovery is reported in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal Cell by scientists from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
In all organisms, the genome is split into chromosomes (compressed long strands of DNA) which are subdivided into functional DNA segments called genes. Genes function as the blueprints for building particular pieces of cellular machinery. However, different types of cells each require different types of cellular machinery, and must produce that machinery according to a biological timetable. A central issue in molecular biology is finding out how a cell regulates which genes are on, or active, and which genes are off, or repressed. This topic has direct relevance to human disease, as improper activation or repression of genes that regulate cellular growth is a common feature of cancer cells.
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Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
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