Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

What makes us unique? Not only our genes

March 19, 2010
What counts is how genes are regulated, say scientists at EMBL and Yale

Once the human genome was sequenced in 2001, the hunt was on for the genes that make each of us unique. But scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, and Yale and Stanford Universities in the USA, have found that we differ from each other mainly because of differences not in our genes, but in how they're regulated - turned on or off, for instance. In a study published today in Science, they are the first to compare entire human genomes and determine which changes in the stretches of DNA that lie between genes make gene regulation vary from one person to the next. Their findings hail a new way of thinking about ourselves and our diseases.

The technological advances of the past decade have been so great that scientists can now obtain the genetic sequences - or genomes - of several people in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost it took to determine that first human genome. Moreover, these advances now enable researchers to understand how genes are regulated in humans.

A group of scientists led by Jan Korbel at EMBL and Michael Snyder initially at Yale and now in Stanford were the first to compare individually sequenced human genomes to look for what caused differences in gene regulation amongst ten different people. They focused on non-coding regions - stretches of DNA that lie between genes and, unlike genes, don't hold the instructions for producing proteins. These DNA sequences, which may vary from person to person, can act as anchors to which regulatory proteins, known as transcription factors, attach themselves to switch genes on or off.

Korbel, Snyder, and colleagues found that up to a quarter of all human genes are regulated differently in different people, more than there are genetic variations in genes themselves. The scientists found that many of these differences in how regulatory proteins act are due to changes in the DNA sequences they bind to. In some cases, such changes can be a difference in a single letter of the genetic code, while in others a large section of DNA may be altered. But surprisingly, they discovered even more variations could not be so easily explained. They reasoned that some of these seemingly inexplicable differences might arise if regulatory proteins didn't act alone, but interacted with each other.

"We developed a new approach which enabled us to identify cases where a protein's ability to turn a gene on or off can be affected by interactions with another protein anchored to a nearby area of the genome," Korbel explains. "With it, we can begin to understand where such interactions happen, without having to study every single regulatory protein out there."

The scientists found that even if different people have identical copies of a gene - for instance ORMDL3, a gene known to be involved in asthma in children - the way their cells regulate that gene can vary from person to person.

"Our findings may help change the way we think of ourselves, and of diseases", Snyder concludes: "as well as looking for disease genes, we could start looking at how genes are regulated, and how individual variations in gene regulation could affect patients' reactions."

Finally, Korbel, Snyder and colleagues compared the information on humans with that from a chimpanzee, and found that with respect to gene regulation there seems to be almost as much variation between humans as between us and our primate cousins - a small margin in which may lie important clues both to how we evolved and to what makes us humans different from one another.

In a study published online in Nature yesterday, researchers led by Snyder in the USA and Lars Steinmetz at EMBL in Heidelberg have found that similar differences in gene regulation also occur in an organism which is much farther from us in the evolutionary tree: baker's yeast.

European Molecular Biology Laboratory


Related Gene Regulation Current Events and Gene Regulation News Articles


New functions for 'junk' DNA?
DNA is the molecule that encodes the genetic instructions enabling a cell to produce the thousands of proteins it typically needs.

Sea anemone is genetically half animal, half plant
The team led by evolutionary and developmental biologist Ulrich Technau at the University of Vienna discovered that sea anemones display a genomic landscape with a complexity of regulatory elements similar to that of fruit flies or other animal model systems.

Study of complete RNA collection of fruit fly uncovers unprecedented complexity
Scientists from Indiana University are part of a consortium that has described the transcriptome of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in unprecedented detail, identifying thousands of new genes, transcripts and proteins.

Rebuilding the brain after stroke
Enhancing the brain's inherent ability to rebuild itself after a stroke with molecular components of stem cells holds enormous promise for treating the leading cause of long-term disability in adults.

New Insight into an Emerging Genome-Editing Tool
The potential is there for bacteria and other microbes to be genetically engineered to perform a cornucopia of valuable goods and services, from the production of safer, more effective medicines and clean, green, sustainable fuels, to the clean-up and restoration of our air, water and land.

Permanent changes in brain genes may not be so permanent after all
In normal development, all cells turn off genes they don't need, often by attaching a chemical methyl group to the DNA, a process called methylation.

Tracing unique cells with mathematics
Stem cells can turn into heart cells, skin cells can mutate to cancer cells; even cells of the same tissue type exhibit small heterogeneities. Scientists use single-cell analysis to investigate these heterogeneities.

Deciphering the secret of the sugar beet
An international team of researchers from Bielefeld University, Germany, the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, Spain, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG), Department of Vertebrate Genomics (H. Lehrach) in Berlin and further partners from academia and the private sector, have been able to sequence and analyse for the first time the sweet genes of beetroot.

Fungal pathogen shows profound effects from spaceflight
At Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, Cheryl Nickerson and her team have been investigating the intriguing effects of spaceflight on microbial pathogens.

New tool developed for profiling critical regulatory structures of RNA molecules
A molecular technique that will help the scientific community to analyze -- on a scale previously impossible -- molecules that play a critical role in regulating gene expression has been developed by a research team led by a chemist and a plant biologist at Penn State University.
More Gene Regulation Current Events and Gene Regulation News Articles

Gene Regulation

Gene Regulation
by G. S. Miglani (Author)


GENE REGULATION deals with the molecular mechanisms of regulation of gene expression in viruses, bacteria and eukaryotes. Role of epigenetic modifications in gene regulation is dealt with in detail. While molecular basis of development and evolution in light of the recent discoveries finds a special mention, in the last chapter, modification and modulation of gene expression and exploitation of gene regulation has been discussed. The Genetic material and gene expression have been described only very briefly in the first chapter. Gene Regulation is primarily designed as a text book for senior undergraduate and post-graduate students. Undergraduate and graduate students, teachers and researchers in any discipline of life sciences, agricultural sciences, medicine, and biotechnology in all...

Gene Control

Gene Control
by David Latchman (Author)


Gene Control offers a current description of how gene expression is controlled in eukaryotes, reviewing and summarizing the extensive primary literature into an easily accessible format.  Gene Control is a comprehensively restructured and expanded edition of Latchman’s Gene Regulation: A Eukaryotic Perspective, Fifth Edition. The first part of the book deals with the fundamental processes of gene control at the levels of chromatin structure, transcription, and post-transcriptional processes. Three pairs of chapters deal with each of these aspects, first describing the basic process itself, followed by the manner in which it is involved in controlling gene expression.  The second part of the book deals with the role of gene control in specific biological processes. Certain chapters...

Mechanisms of Gene Regulation

Mechanisms of Gene Regulation
by Carsten Carlberg (Author), Ferdinand Molnár (Author)


This textbook aims to describe the fascinating area of eukaryotic gene regulation for graduate students in all areas of the biomedical sciences. Gene expression is essential in shaping the various phenotypes of cells and tissues and as such, regulation of expression is a fundamental aspect of nearly all processes in physiology, both in healthy and in diseased states. This pivotal role for the regulation of gene expression makes this textbook essential reading from students of all the biomedical sciences in order to be better prepared for their specialized disciplines.A complete understanding of transcription factors and the processes that alter their activity is a major goal of modern life science research. The availability of the whole human genome sequence (and that of other eukaryotic...

Homology, Genes, and Evolutionary Innovation

Homology, Genes, and Evolutionary Innovation
by Günter P. Wagner (Author)



Homology--a similar trait shared by different species and derived from common ancestry, such as a seal's fin and a bird's wing--is one of the most fundamental yet challenging concepts in evolutionary biology. This groundbreaking book provides the first mechanistically based theory of what homology is and how it arises in evolution.
Günter Wagner, one of the preeminent researchers in the field, argues that homology, or character identity, can be explained through the historical continuity of character identity networks--that is, the gene regulatory networks that enable differential gene expression. He shows how character identity is independent of the form and function of the character itself because the same network can activate different effector genes and thus control the...

Untranslated Gene Regions and Other Non-coding Elements: Regulation of Eukaryotic Gene Expression (SpringerBriefs in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)

Untranslated Gene Regions and Other Non-coding Elements: Regulation of Eukaryotic Gene Expression (SpringerBriefs in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
by Lucy W. Barrett (Author), Sue Fletcher (Author), Steve D. Wilton (Author)


There is now compelling evidence that the complexity of higher organisms correlates with the relative amount of non-coding RNA rather than the number of protein-coding genes. Previously dismissed as “junk DNA”, it is the non-coding regions of the genome that are responsible for regulation, facilitating complex temporal and spatial gene expression through the combinatorial effect of numerous mechanisms and interactions working together to fine-tune gene expression. The major regions involved in regulation of a particular gene are the 5’ and 3’ untranslated regions and introns. In addition, pervasive transcription of complex genomes produces a variety of non-coding transcripts that interact with these regions and contribute to regulation. This book discusses recent insights into the...

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know
by Katty Kay (Author), Claire Shipman (Author)


Following the success of Lean In and Why Women Should Rule the World, the authors of the bestselling Womenomics provide an informative and practical guide to understanding the importance of confidence—and learning how to achieve it—for women of all ages and at all stages of their career.Working women today are better educated and more well qualified than ever before. Yet men still predominate in the corporate world. In The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the key reason is confidence.Combining cutting-edge research in genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition—with examples from their own lives and those of other successful women in politics, media, and business—Kay and Shipman go beyond admonishing women to "lean in."Instead, they offer the inspiration and...

Gene Regulation: A Eukaryotic Perspective

Gene Regulation: A Eukaryotic Perspective
by David S. Latchman (Author)


Gene Regulation provides a complete and concise picture of the processes regulating gene expression in higher organisms and man. The second edition of this well reviewed textbook has been extensively updated to reflect the scientific progress made in this area over the last four years.

Regulation of Gene Expression

Regulation of Gene Expression
by Gary H. Perdew (Author), Jack P. Vanden Heuvel (Author), Jeffrey M. Peters (Author)


Regulation of Gene Expression: Molecular Mechanisms presents a comprehensive overview of methods and approaches for characterizing mechanisms of gene regulation. The text is appropriate both as a graduate textbook and a standard laboratory reference and provides the essential groundwork for an advanced understanding of the various mechanisms that may result in altered activity of a specific cell protein.

Each of three sections explores mechanisms of gene regulation and expression, and presents methods and protocols for achieving specific experimental goals. Part I focuses on approaches for studying control of mRNA expression and determining target genes for a given transcription copy. Part II outlines the methods for determining how proteins can regulate each other by mediating...

Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes Our Genes

Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes Our Genes
by Richard C. Francis (Author)


Goodbye, genetic blueprint. . . . The first book for general readers ?on the game-changing field of epigenetics. The burgeoning new science of epigenetics offers a cornucopia of insights—some comforting, some frightening. For example, the male fetus may be especially vulnerable to certain common chemicals in our environment, in ways that damage not only his own sperm but also the sperm of his sons. And it’s epigenetics that causes identical twins to vary widely in their susceptibility to dementia and cancer. But here’s the good news: unlike mutations, epigenetic effects are reversible. Indeed, epigenetic engineering is the future of medicine. 18 illustrations

Molecular Biology of the Gene, Sixth Edition

Molecular Biology of the Gene, Sixth Edition
by James D. Watson (Author)


Though completely up-to-date with the latest research advances, the Sixth Edition of James D. Watson’s classic book, Molecular Biology of the Gene retains the distinctive character of earlier editions that has made it the most widely used book in molecular biology. Twenty-two concise chapters, co-authored by six highly respected biologists, provide current, authoritative coverage of an exciting, fast-changing discipline. Mendelian View of the World, Nucleic Acids Convey Genetic Information,The Importance of Weak Chemical Interactions, The Importance of High Energy Bonds, Weak and Strong Bonds Determine Macromolecular Interactions, The Structures of DNA and RNA, Genome Structure, Chromatin and the Nucleosome, The Replication of DNA, The Mutability and Repair of DNA, Homologous...

© 2014 BrightSurf.com