Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Super-Enhancers Seen as ‘Rosetta Stone’ for Dialog Between Genes and Disease

Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Regulatorsthat control cell identity found to be enriched in mutated regions of genome.

Having recently discovered a set of powerful gene regulators that control cell identity in a few mouse and human cell types, Whitehead Institute scientists are now showing that these regulators—which they named “super-enhancers”—act across a vast array of human cell types and are enriched in mutated regions of the genome that are closely associated with a broad spectrum of diseases.

The findings, published online today by the journal Cell, suggest that these super-enhancers, first described in Cell several months ago by Whitehead Member Richard Young, could ultimately play important roles in disease diagnostics and therapeutics.

In April, Young reported that while the total number of genetic control elements is likely in the millions, only a few hundred super-enhancers regulate the key genes that give each cell its unique properties and functions. At the time, Young hinted that the discovery, which was based on work primarily in embryonic stem cells, would help to solve the regulatory circuitry of all human cells. This latest research represents a significant step toward that goal, producing a catalog of super-enhancers in nearly 100 human cell and tissue types.

“We’ve gone from a few cells to a broad swath of human cell types to create this resource and make it available to the biomedical research community,” says Young, who is also a professor of biology at MIT.

Young notes that the striking finding of the new study is that beyond their roles in control of healthy cells, super-enhancers are involved in regulating the function—and dysfunction—of diseased cells.

“We were surprised that for so many different diseases, mutations associated with the disease occur in super-enhancers” says postdoctoral scientist Brian Abraham, an author of the study. Indeed, he and other researchers in Young’s lab found in disease-relevant cell types genetic mutations associated with Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and many autoimmune diseases in genomic regions under the control of specific super-enhancers.

The researchers also found super-enhancers operating in particularly insidious fashion across a broad spectrum of cancers, observing cancer cells assembling their own super-enhancers to overproduce malevolent oncogenes that drive such cancer hallmarks as hyperproliferation, invasion, and metastasis. Young believes that identifying, mapping, and disrupting super-enhancers could alter the way cancers are managed in the clinic.

“When we focus on personalized medicine for cancer patients, super-enhancers could serve as useful biomarkers for tracking and understanding the evolution of a person’s cancer,” says Young. “Ultimately, super-enhancers may well become important targets for therapeutic intervention.”

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tracking Changes in DNA Methylation In Real Time At Single-Cell Resolution
Whitehead Institute researchers have developed a methodology to monitor changes in DNA methylation over time in individual cells.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Thwarting Protein Production Slows Cancer Cells’ Malignant March
Protein production or translation is tightly coupled to a highly conserved stress response that cancer cells rely on for survival and proliferation.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Scientists Identify Gene that Controls Aggressiveness in Breast Cancer Cells
Researchers have identified a transcription factor, known as ZEB1, that is capable of converting non-aggressive basal-type cancer cells into highly malignant, tumor-forming cancer stem cells (CSCs).
Monday, July 08, 2013
Putting microRNAs on the Stem Cell Map
Whitehead researchers have now discovered how microRNAs fit into the map of embryonic stem cell circuitry.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Scientists Identify Gene that Regulates Polarity in Regenerating Flatworms
Whitehead scientists have discovered that the gene Smed-beta-catenin-1 is required for proper decisions about head-versus-tail polarity in regenerating flatworms.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Scientific News
Revolutionary Technologies Developed to Improve Outcomes for Lung Cancer Patients
Breath test to detect lung cancer brings oxygen directly to the wound.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Nanocarriers May Carry New Hope for Brain Cancer Therapy
Berkeley lab researchers develop nanoparticles that can carry therapeutics across the brain blood barrier.
RNA-Based Drugs Give More Control Over Gene Editing
CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can be transiently activated and inactivated using RNA-based drugs, giving researchers more precise control in correcting and inactivating genes.
University of Glasgow Researchers Make An Impact in 60 Seconds
Early-career researchers were invited to submit an engaging, dynamic and compelling 60 second video illuminating an aspect of their research.
Metabolic Profiles Distinguish Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with Unprecedented Accuracy
Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer.
Dead Bacteria to Kill Colorectal Cancer
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have successfully used dead bacteria to kill colorectal cancer cells.
CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing: Check Three Times, Cut Once
Two new studies from UC Berkeley should give scientists who use CRISPR-Cas9 for genome engineering greater confidence that they won’t inadvertently edit the wrong DNA.

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos