Epigenetics : Asf1, the protein that oversees DNA replication and packaging in the cell

During DNA replication, all the information in the mother cell must be transmitted to the daughter cells. The DNA must be faithfully copied, of course, but also properly organized within the cell. DNA is wrapped around proteins called histones, to form chromatin.

This complex structure contains so-called epigenetic information, which governs gene expression and gives each cell its specific identity. The histone chaperone, Asf1, coordinates the removal of histones from the chromatin to allow the replication machinery to move along the DNA, with the supply of new histones to reform the chromatin once the replication machinery has passed. This discovery sheds new light on the transmission of epigenetic information in cells, and was published in the 21 December 2007 issue of Science.

DNA inherited from both parents is copied during each cell division and transmitted to all cells. Each of our cells therefore contains the same genetic information. So, what is the difference between a neuron and a white blood cell? The difference lies in the fact that although every cell in our body has the same number of genes, only some of these genes are active in any given cell. Depending on cell type, certain genes are “locked” to prevent their expression. Information on the locking and unlocking of genes is essential for cell function, and is not carried in the genes themselves but by epigenetic factors. These can be chemical modifications(2) or the organization of the DNA within the cell. The DNA double helix (diameter 2 nanometers) is wrapped around histones, proteins that facilitate its compaction, to form nucleosomes, which are strung along the DNA like beads on a string. This bead necklace then folds on itself to form a fiber—chromatin.

When a cell divides to give rise to two daughter cells, the DNA-replicating machinery unfolds the chromatin as it moves along the DNA strands. Once the so-called replication fork (the structure that forms during DNA replication) has passed, both the DNA and the epigenetic factors must be repositioned. The “Chromatin Dynamics” team of Geneviève Almouzni (UMR 218 CNRS/Institut Curie) has now shown that the histone chaperone, the protein ASF-1, regulates the progression of the replication fork, and handles the supply and demand of histones during this process essential to cell life. Asf1 oversees the removal of old histones upstream of the replication fork, and their recycling, together with the supply of newly synthesized histones to the DNA daughter strands. In so doing, Asf1 collaborates with MCM2-7, a protein complex that opens the DNA strands to allow the replication fork to advance. Asf1 therefore plays a key role in replication during cell division by coordinating the recycling of old histones and the incorporation of newly synthesized histones.

This discovery clarifies the relation between duplication of the genetic material and transmission of information carried by the histones during cell division. Any alterations occurring in the DNA or chromatin may compromise the development of an organism or play a part in cell aging, or even in the occurrence of cancer. This discovery sheds new light on the role of epigenetics in cancer development.

Media Contact

Céline Giustranti alfa

All latest news from the category: Life Sciences and Chemistry

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences and chemistry area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Perovskite solar cells soar to new heights

Metal halide perovskites have been under intense investigation over the last decade, due to the remarkable rise in their performance in optoelectronic devices such as solar cells or light-emitting diodes….

Blue hydrogen can help protect the climate

An international group of researchers led by the Paul Scherrer Institute and the Heriot-Watt University has carried out in-depth analyses of the climate impact of blue hydrogen. This is produced…

Genes associated with hearing loss visualised in new study

Researchers from Uppsala University have been able to document and visualise hearing loss-associated genes in the human inner ear, in a unique collaboration study between otosurgeons and geneticists. The findings…

Partners & Sponsors