Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rewriting DNA to understand what it says

Date:
May 31, 2012
Source:
Weizmann Institute of Science
Summary:
Our ability to "read" DNA has made tremendous progress in the past few decades, but the ability to understand and alter the genetic code, that is, to "rewrite" the DNA-encoded instructions, has lagged behind. A new study advances our understanding of the genetic code: It proposes a way of effectively introducing numerous carefully planned DNA segments into genomes of living cells and of testing the effects of these changes. New technology speeds up DNA "rewriting" and measures the effects of the changes in living cells.

Illustration of rewriting DNA. Our ability to "read" DNA has made tremendous progress in the past few decades, but the ability to understand and alter the genetic code, that is, to "rewrite" the DNA-encoded instructions, has lagged behind. A new Weizmann Institute study advances our understanding of the genetic code: It proposes a way of effectively introducing numerous carefully planned DNA segments into genomes of living cells and of testing the effects of these changes.
Credit: Image courtesy of Weizmann Institute of Science

Our ability to "read" DNA has made tremendous progress in the past few decades, but the ability to understand and alter the genetic code, that is, to "rewrite" the DNA-encoded instructions, has lagged behind. A new Weizmann Institute study advances our understanding of the genetic code: It proposes a way of effectively introducing numerous carefully planned DNA segments into genomes of living cells and of testing the effects of these changes.

The study is being reported in the June issues of Nature Biotechnology and Nature Genetics.

Until now, changing the DNA sequence has been a slow and labor-intensive process. It took several weeks to alter just one DNA region at a time; testing the effects of each of these changes took even longer. In the new study, Weizmann Institute scientists have developed a technology that makes it possible to simultaneously introduce tens of thousands of DNA regions into tens of thousands of living cells - each region in a separate cell - in a planned and systematic manner, and to measure the results of each such change with great precision and within a single experiment.

"This fast method will significantly advance our ability to understand the 'language' of DNA," says research team leader Prof. Eran Segal, of the Weizmann Institute's Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and Molecular Cell Biology Departments. "Reading out a person's entire genome is already a manageable task, but what exactly is written in that genome? After all, a genome looks like a lengthy string of letters whose meaning is for the most part obscure. Just deciphering the DNA letters is like trying to understand a foreign language by listening to it being spoken. Our method will help us identify DNA 'words' and understand their meaning."

Understanding what's written in the DNA might help us interpret, among other things, how genotypic differences among people generate observable differences among them, from the way we look to the way our cells function. Thus, for example, it might be possible to clarify which genetic differences are responsible for the development of various diseases in certain individuals. The Weizmann Institute technology can also lead to improved genetic therapies based on introducing new genes or improved regulatory sequences into cells in order to repair genetic defects.

In the present study, the scientists investigated a vital aspect of the DNA language: How the control of gene expression is encoded in the DNA - that is, the instructions determining the level of activity of each gene in the genetic code. Since gene activity levels have crucial effects on cell function, this question, considered one of the central in molecular biology, has been studied for decades. The new technology has enabled the scientists to isolate and test the effects of various parameters on gene activity levels: For example, how a gene's activity level is affected by the gene's distance from its regulatory sequence. The researchers have managed to elucidate how various parameters define the regulatory "language" and to demonstrate how deliberate changes in the genetic sequence affect these parameters in a way that alters the level of a gene's activity in a predictable manner.

The new method consists of four steps that combine existing technologies in an innovative manner. The steps are: creation of 50,000 different genetic sequences on DNA chips; massive insertion of these sequences into cells at the same time; sorting the cells with the help of a sorting machine that senses the expression levels of a "reporter" gene; and high-throughput parallel DNA sequencing.

Taking part in the study were Weizmann Institute's graduate students Eilon Sharon, Tali Raveh-Sadka and Michal Levo, research assistant Dr. Yael Kalma and research associate Dr. Adina Weinberger, as well as Dr. Zohar Yakhini from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology and Agilent Laboratories, Santa Clara, California.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Weizmann Institute of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Tali Raveh-Sadka, Michal Levo, Uri Shabi, Boaz Shany, Leeat Keren, Maya Lotan-Pompan, Danny Zeevi, Eilon Sharon, Adina Weinberger, Eran Segal. Manipulating nucleosome disfavoring sequences allows fine-tune regulation of gene expression in yeast. Nature Genetics, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/ng.2305
  2. Eilon Sharon, Yael Kalma, Ayala Sharp, Tali Raveh-Sadka, Michal Levo, Danny Zeevi, Leeat Keren, Zohar Yakhini, Adina Weinberger, Eran Segal. Inferring gene regulatory logic from high-throughput measurements of thousands of systematically designed promoters. Nature Biotechnology, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2205

Cite This Page:

Weizmann Institute of Science. "Rewriting DNA to understand what it says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102207.htm>.
Weizmann Institute of Science. (2012, May 31). Rewriting DNA to understand what it says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102207.htm
Weizmann Institute of Science. "Rewriting DNA to understand what it says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102207.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. 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