Life’s Tiniest Architects Pinpointed by Yale Researchers
News Feb 25, 2013
The study pinpoints the molecular regulators of epigenetics — the process by which unchanging genes along our DNA are switched on and off at precisely right time and place.
“Our genome is like a landscape with lakes, mountains, and rivers, but it is not yet a community or a city full of buildings,” said Haifan Lin, director of the Yale Stem Cell Center and senior author of the study. “What this system does is decide where and when to send out the masons, carpenters, and electricians to build a city or a community.”
In the past 20 years, scientists have discovered that some proteins, called epigenetic factors, traverse the static genome and turn the genes on or off. The staggering number of potential combinations of active and inactive genes explains why a relatively small number of genes can carry out such a wide range of functions. But what guides these epigenetic factors to their target? The answer, the Yale team has found, is specialized RNAs called piRNAs.
In the latest study, the Yale team discovered that piRNAs guide epigenetic factors to numerous sites throughout the genome of the fruit fly Drosophila, where these switches work to turn genes on or off. The dramatic change in gene expression patterns found illustrated piRNAs key role in coordinating biological activity.
“This is the first major mechanism discovered that controls where epigenetic factors —the gene switches — are to be placed in the genome,” Lin said.
Several types of cancers appeared to be triggered when the wrong kinds of piRNAs guide epigenetic factors to activate the wrong genes. Blocking the action of these piRNAs should become a new opportunity to treat cancers, Lin said.
Xiao A. Huang and Hang Yin of Yale are co-lead authors of the paper.
The research was funded by a National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award to Haifan Lin and a grant from Connecticut Stem Cell Research Fund to Lin and former Yale professor and co-author Michael Snyder, now of Stanford University.
CRISPR Reveals New Targets for Promising Cancer DrugsNews
Novel screening method identifies new drug targets that could potentially enhance the effectiveness of PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors, a promising new class of cancer immunotherapy.READ MORE
Study Indicates 75% of Human Genome is Non-functionalNews
An evolutionary biologist at the University of Houston has published new calculations that indicate no more than 25 percent of the human genome is functional.READ MORE
Comments | 0 ADD COMMENT
EMBL Course: Next Generation Sequencing: RNA Sequencing Library Preparation
Apr 23 - Apr 27, 2018
EMBO Practical Course: Microbial Metagenomics: A 360º Approach
Apr 23 - Apr 30, 2018
EMBL Course: Next Generation Sequencing: Whole Genome Sequencing Library Preparation
Apr 16 - Apr 20, 2018
EMBL Course: Introduction to Next Generation Sequencing
Apr 09 - Apr 12, 2018