Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

New Insights into How Genes Turn On and Off

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers at UC Davis and the University of British Columbia have shed new light on methylation, a critical process that helps control how genes are expressed.

Working with placentas, the team discovered that 37 percent of the placental genome has regions of lower methylation, called partially methylated domains (PMDs), in which gene expression is turned off. This differs from most human tissues, in which 70 percent of the genome is highly methylated.

While PMDs have been identified in cell lines, this is the first time they have been found in regular human tissue. In addition to enhancing our understanding of epigenetics, this work could influence cancer research and help illuminate how environmental toxins affect fetal development. The paper was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Since it was unraveled more than ten years ago, the human genome has been the focus of both popular interest and intense scientific focus. But the genome doesn't act alone; there are many factors that influence whether genes are turned on or off. One of these is an epigenetic process called methylation, in which a group of carbon and hydrogen atoms (a methyl group) attaches to DNA, adjusting how genes are expressed.

"I like to think of epigenetics as a layer on top of your genetic code," said senior author Janine LaSalle, professor of medical microbiology and immunology. "It's not the DNA sequence but it layers on top of that - and methylation is the first layer. Those layers provide a lot of information to the cells on where and when to turn on the genes."

How and when genes are activated (or inactivated) can have a profound impact on human development, cancer and the biological legacy of environmental toxins. Prior to this research, PMDs had only been found in cultured cell lines, which led some scientists to wonder if they existed outside the test tube. This study confirms they exist in placental tissue, a critically important window into fetal development.

"The placenta is the interface between mother and fetus," said LaSalle, who is a researcher affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute. "It's a time capsule from when a lot of important methylation events occurred."

In addition, placental tissue was interesting to study because it has a number of invasive characteristics often associated with cancer. In fact, a number of cancers, such as breast and colon, have widespread PMDs. LaSalle notes that anti-cancer epigenetic therapies that adjust methylation could be refined based on this improved understanding of PMDs.

This work could also enhance our ability to detect genetic defects. Methylation, and other epigenetic data, provides information that cannot be found in the genome alone. For example, the vast majority of cells in the body contain identical genetic code. However, the added information provided by methylation allows scientists to determine where specific DNA came from.

"Methylation patterns are like fingerprints, showing which tissue that DNA is derived from," LaSalle said. "You can't get that information from just the DNA sequence. As a result, methylation studies could be a very rich source for biomarkers."

In the study, PMDs encompassed 37 percent of the placental genome, including 3,815 genes, around 17 percent of all genes. When found in low-methylation regions, these genes were less likely to be transcribed into proteins. Researchers also found that PMDs also contain more highly methylated CpG islands (genomic areas with large numbers of cytosine-guanine pairs), which are often associated with gene transcriptional silencing of promoters.

Because the placental PMDs contained many genes associated with neuronal development, and specifically autism, LaSalle notes that future research could investigate how epigenetics impacts autism genes at birth.

"We are looking for biomarkers that predict neurodevelopmental outcomes," LaSalle said. "Now we have a series of snap shots from a critical period where we think environmental factors are playing a role in the developing brain."


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 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ 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 TechnologyNetworks.com 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

Ultrafast DNA Diagnostics
New technology developed by UC Berkeley bioengineers promises to make a workhorse lab tool cheaper, more portable and many times faster by accelerating the heating and cooling of genetic samples with the switch of a light.
Monday, August 03, 2015
Scientists Create CRISPR/Cas9 Knock-In Mutations in Human T Cells
In a project spearheaded by investigators at UC San Francisco, scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human T cells using the genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Simple Technology Makes CRISPR Gene Editing Cheaper
University of California, Berkeley, researchers have discovered a much cheaper and easier way to target a hot new gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, to cut or label DNA.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Printed "Smart Cap" Detects Spoiled Food
It might not be long before consumers can just hit “print” to create an electronic circuit or wireless sensor in the comfort of their homes.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Growing Spinal Disc Tissue
Scientists develop new method for growing spinal disc tissue in the lab for combating chronic back pain.
Friday, July 03, 2015
Delivering Drugs to the Right Place
Thomas Weimbs has developed a targeted drug delivery method that could potentially slow the progression of polycystic kidney disease.
Monday, June 29, 2015
The Deep Carbon Cycle
Over billions of years, the total carbon content of the outer part of the Earth—in its upper mantle, crust, oceans and atmospheres—has gradually increased, scientists report.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Designing New Pain Relief Drugs
Researchers have identified the molecular interactions that allow capsaicin to activate the body’s primary receptor for sensing heat and pain, paving the way for the design of more selective and effective drugs to relieve pain.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Engineers Crack DNA Code of Autoimmune Disorders
Researchers have identified an unexpectedly general set of rules that determine which molecules can cause the immune system to become vulnerable to the autoimmune disorders lupus and psoriasis.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Genetic Markers for Detecting and Treating Ovarian Cancer
Custom bioinformatics algorithm identifies human mRNAs that distinguish ovarian cancer cells from normal cells and provide new therapeutic targets
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Researchers Reverse Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics
Evidence continues to surface that supports the premise that antibiotics which have been out of use could still be effective in treating drug-resistant bacteria.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Industry-Sponsored Academic Inventions Spur Increased Innovation
Analysis questions assumption that corporate support skews science toward inventions that are less useful than those funded by the government or non-profit organizations.
Monday, March 24, 2014
May the Cellular Force be With You
Like tiny construction workers, cells sculpt embryonic tissues and organs in 3D space.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Grant Supports Creation of Patient-Derived Stem Cell Lines
Researchers have received a two-year, $600,000 grant from the National Institute on Aging to develop and study patient-derived stem cell lines.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Prostate Cancer Stem Cells are a Moving Target
Researchers have discovered how prostate cancer stem cells evolve as the disease progresses, a finding that could help point the way to more highly targeted therapies.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Scientific News
The Changing Tides of the In Vitro Diagnostics Market
With the increasing focus in personalized medicine, diagnostics plays a crucial role in patient monitoring.
LaVision BioTec Reports on the Neuro Research on the Human Brain After Trauma
Company reports on the work of Dr Ali Ertürk from the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research at LMU Munich.
NIH Study Shows No Benefit of Omega-3 Supplements for Cognitive Decline
Research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Less May Be More in Slowing Cholera Epidemics
Mathematical model shows more cases may be prevented and more lives saved when using one dose of cholera vaccine instead of recommended two doses.
Investigating the Vape
Expert independent review concludes that e-cigarettes have potential to help smokers quit.
NIH Launches Human RSV Study
Study aims to understand infection in healthy adults to aid development of RSV medicines, vaccines.
Researchers Discover Synthesis of a New Nanomaterial
Interdisciplinary team creates biocomposite for first time using physiological conditions.
Poor Survival Rates in Leukemia Linked to Persistent Genetic Mutations
For patients with an often-deadly form of leukemia, new research suggests that lingering cancer-related mutations – detected after initial treatment with chemotherapy – are associated with an increased risk of relapse and poor survival.
Flu Remedies Help Combat E. coli Bacteria
Physiologists from the University of Zurich have now discovered why the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) multiplies heavily and has an inflammatory effect.
Marijuana Genome Unraveled
A study by Canadian researchers is providing a clearer picture of the evolutionary history and genetic organization of cannabis, a step that could have agricultural, medical and legal implications for this valuable crop.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
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
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!