Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why some genes are silenced: Researchers find clue as to how notes are played on the 'genetic piano'

Date:
May 13, 2011
Source:
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Summary:
Scientists report an epigenetic rationale as to how some genes are silenced and others aren't. By reversing this effect, it may be possible to devise therapies for cancer and other diseases.

Dr. Kohzoh Mitsuya, of the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, is co-author of a paper in Science pointing to an epigenetics rationale for why some genes are silenced and others are not.
Credit: UT Health Science Center San Antonio

Japanese and U.S. scientists in the young field of epigenetics have reported a rationale as to how specific genes are silenced and others are not. Because this effect can be reversed, it may be possible to devise therapies for cancer and other diseases using this information.

The NOVA U.S. public television program described epigenetics as "The Ghost In Your Genes." It is the study of changes in gene expression that occur without changes in DNA sequence. Like keys on a piano, DNA is the static blueprint for all the proteins that cells produce. Epigenetic information provides additional dynamic or flexible instructions as to how, where and when the blueprint will be used. "It corresponds to a pianist playing a piece of music," said Kohzoh Mitsuya, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

Article in Science

The study by Dr. Mitsuya and colleagues is outlined in the May 13 issue of the journal Science. The team found that a small RNA pathway is required to establish an epigenetic modification -- called DNA methylation -- at a gene that codes for mammalian proteins. DNA methylation adds chemical tags called methyl groups to specific genes, usually silencing their expression.

"DNA methylation marks are reversible, so there is great interest in devising therapeutic strategies, for instance in cancer biology, to epigenetically reactivate silenced tumor-suppressor genes or inactivate specific oncogenes in human cancer cells," Dr. Mitsuya, the Science paper's third author, said. The lead author is Toshiaki Watanabe, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Genetics in Japan and Yale University.

Environment and cancer

Beyond being reversible, DNA methylation is susceptible to environmental influences. Many cancer biologists now agree that changes in DNA methylation might be as important as genetic mutations in causing cancer. There are far more epigenetic changes than genetic changes found in the majority of cancers, and research into epigenetics is proving to be important to understanding cancer biology.

"It is critical to identify the entire complement of factors that affect gene silencing," Dr. Mitsuya said. "This was the rationale behind this study examining DNA methylation in mice that I began in 2004. The study adds information about one set of factors."

A finger on the piano

The researchers compared a group of normal mice with a group lacking the small RNA species. The team found that DNA methylation was markedly reduced at one of four genes tested in the small RNA-deficient mice. "This is the first demonstration that small RNAs can act in this way," Dr. Mitsuya said. "It shows how one note is played on the piano."

Epigenetic activity is a previously unseen dimension of biology that may enable clearer detection of disease, monitoring of progression and improved treatment, and may provide entirely new biomarkers of disease susceptibility. "The symphony has only just come into view," Dr. Mitsuya said. "We can hear it, but we need to learn how all the parts are being played."

Dr. Mitsuya is a member of the Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and is engaged in epigenetic studies of placental function.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Watanabe, S.-i. Tomizawa, K. Mitsuya, Y. Totoki, Y. Yamamoto, S. Kuramochi-Miyagawa, N. Iida, Y. Hoki, P. J. Murphy, A. Toyoda, K. Gotoh, H. Hiura, T. Arima, A. Fujiyama, T. Sado, T. Shibata, T. Nakano, H. Lin, K. Ichiyanagi, P. D. Soloway, H. Sasaki. Role for piRNAs and Noncoding RNA in de Novo DNA Methylation of the Imprinted Mouse Rasgrf1 Locus. Science, 2011; 332 (6031): 848 DOI: 10.1126/science.1203919

Cite This Page:

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "Why some genes are silenced: Researchers find clue as to how notes are played on the 'genetic piano'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512150719.htm>.
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. (2011, May 13). Why some genes are silenced: Researchers find clue as to how notes are played on the 'genetic piano'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512150719.htm
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "Why some genes are silenced: Researchers find clue as to how notes are played on the 'genetic piano'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512150719.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins