Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists shed light on the 'dark matter' of DNA

Date:
January 17, 2013
Source:
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology
Summary:
In each cell, thousands of regulatory regions control which genes are active at any time. Scientists have now developed a method that reliably detects these regions and measures their activity.

Fluorescence image of ovarian tissue of the fruit fly. DNA is stained in blue, the activity of enhancers is represented by the green colour.
Credit: Copyright IMP

In each cell, thousands of regulatory regions control which genes are active at any time. Scientists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna have developed a method that reliably detects these regions and measures their activity.

Information on the new technology was just published online in the journal Science.

Genome sequences store the information about an organism's development in the DNA's four-letter alphabet. Genes carry the instruction for proteins, which are the building blocks of our bodies. However, genes make up only a minority of the entire genome sequence -- roughly two percent in humans. The remainder was once dismissed as "junk," mostly because its function remained elusive. "Dark matter" might be more appropriate, but gradually light is being shed on this part of the genome, too.

Far from being useless, the non-coding part of DNA contains so-called regulatory regions or enhancers that determine when and where each gene is expressed. This regulation ensures that each gene is only active in appropriate cell-types and tissues, e.g. hemoglobin in red blood cell precursors, digestive enzymes in the stomach, or ion channels in neurons. If gene regulation fails, cells express the wrong genes and acquire inappropriate functions such as the ability to divide and proliferate, leading to diseases such as cancer.

Despite the importance of gene regulatory regions, scientists have been limited in their ability to study them on a genome-wide scale. Their identification relied on indirect means, which were error prone and required tedious experiments for validating and quantifying enhancer activities..

Alexander Stark and his team at the IMP in Vienna now closed this gap with the development of a new technology called STARR-seq (self-transcribing active regulatory region sequencing), published online by Science this week. STARR-seq allows the direct identification of DNA sequences that function as enhancers and simultaneously measures their activity quantitatively in entire genomes.

Applying their technology to Drosophila cells, the IMP-scientists surprisingly find that the strongest enhancers reside in both regulatory genes that determine the respective cell-types as well as in broadly active "housekeeping" genes that are required for basic cell survival in most or all cells. In addition, they find several enhancers for each active gene, which might provide redundancy to ensure robustness of gene regulation.

The new method combines advanced sequencing technology and highly specialized know-how in bio-computing. It is a powerful tool which, according to Alexander Stark, will prove immensely valuable in the future. "STARR-seq is like a magic microscope that lets us zoom in on the regulatory regions of DNA. It will be crucial to study gene regulation and how it is encoded in the genome -- both during normal development and when it goes wrong in disease."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Arnold Cosmas D. Arnold, Daniel Gerlach, Christoph Stelzer, Łukasz M. Boryń, Martina Rath, Alexander Stark. Genome-Wide Quantitative Enhancer Activity Maps Revealing Complex cis-Regulation of Transcription. Science, January 17, 2013 DOI: 10.1126/science.1232542

Cite This Page:

Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. "Scientists shed light on the 'dark matter' of DNA." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130117142432.htm>.
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. (2013, January 17). Scientists shed light on the 'dark matter' of DNA. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130117142432.htm
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. "Scientists shed light on the 'dark matter' of DNA." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130117142432.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 28, 2014) The World Health Organisation has called for the regulation of electronic cigarettes as both tobacco and medical products. Ciara Lee looks at the impact of the move on the tobacco industry. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) CDC director Tom Frieden says the Ebola outbreak is even worse than he feared. But he also said there's still hope to contain it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How A 'Rule Of Thumb' Could Slow Down Drinking

How A 'Rule Of Thumb' Could Slow Down Drinking

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) A study suggests people who follow a "rule of thumb" when pouring wine dispense less than those who don't have a particular amount in mind. 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