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


Bumblebee genome mapped
Bumblebees are considered peaceful and industrious creatures, and their commercial value has increased in the wake of the decline of honeybees around the world.

New strategy for mapping regulatory networks associated with multi-gene diseases
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have applied a powerful tool in a new way to characterize genetic variants associated with human disease.

Nanotech-enabled moisturizer speeds healing of diabetic skin wounds
A new high-tech but simple ointment applied to the skin may one day help diabetic patients heal stubborn and painful ulcers on their feet, Northwestern University researchers report.

Immune cells help 'good bacteria' triumph over 'bad bacteria' in the gut
The body's immune system may be the keeper of a healthy gut microbiota, report University of Chicago scientists on April 21 in the journal Immunity.

Messenger RNA-associated protein drives multiple paths in T-cell development
RNA is both the bridge between DNA and the production of proteins that carry out the functions of life and what guides which and how much protein gets made.

CNIO experts identify an oncogene regulated by nutrients
Scientists from the Growth Factors, Nutrients and Cancer Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), led by Nabil Djouder, have discovered that the MCRS1 protein, in response to an excess of nutrients, induces an increase in the activity of mTOR (the mammalian/mechanistic Target of Rapamycin); a protein that is altered in human diseases such as cancer and diabetes, processes associated with ageing, as well as in certain cardiovascular and neurodegenerative pathologies.

Study reveals molecular genetic mechanisms driving breast cancer progression
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have uncovered how the body's inflammatory response can alter how estrogen promotes the growth of breast cancer cells.

OSKM stoichiometry determines iPS cell reprogramming
Anyone in the field of cell reprogramming recognizes Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc, or "OSKM", as the Yamanaka factors that led to the first iPS cells.

New technique can locate genes' on-off switches
All the cells in an organism carry the same instruction manual, the DNA, but different cells read and express different portions of it in order fulfill specific functions in the body.

Yale researchers map 'switches' that shaped the evolution of the human brain
Thousands of genetic "dimmer" switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale School of Medicine.
More Gene Regulation Current Events and Gene Regulation News Articles

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...

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...

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 Regulation (Advanced Texts)

Gene Regulation (Advanced Texts)
by David Latchman (Author)


Gene regulation is an essential process in the development and maintenance of a healthy body, and as such, is a central focus in both basic science and medical research.  Gene Regulation, Fifth Edition provides the student and researcher with a clear, up-to-date description of gene regulation in eukaryotes, distilling the vast and complex primary literature into a concise overview.

This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress (Edge Question Series)

This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress (Edge Question Series)
by John Brockman (Author)


The bestselling editor of This Explains Everything brings together 175 of the world’s most brilliant minds to tackle Edge.org’s 2014 question: What scientific idea has become a relic blocking human progress?Each year, John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org—”The world’s smartest website” (The Guardian)—challenges some of the world’s greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers to answer a provocative question crucial to our time. In 2014 he asked 175 brilliant minds to ponder: What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance? The answers are as surprising as they are illuminating. In : Steven Pinker dismantles the working theory of human behavior Richard Dawkins renounces essentialism Sherry Turkle reevaluates our expectations...

Nutritional Genomics: The Impact of Dietary Regulation of Gene Function on Human Disease

Nutritional Genomics: The Impact of Dietary Regulation of Gene Function on Human Disease
by Wayne R. Bidlack (Editor), Raymond L. Rodriguez (Editor)


The notion of matching diet with an individual’s genetic makeup is transforming the way the public views nutrition as a means of managing health and preventing disease. To fulfill the promise of nutritional genomics, researchers are beginning to reconcile the diverse properties of dietary factors with our current knowledge of genome structure and gene function. What is emerging is a complex system of interactions that make the human genome exquisitely sensitive to our nutritional environment. Nutritional Genomics: The Impact of Dietary Regulation of Gene Function on Human Disease provides an integrated view of how genomic and epigenetic processes modulate the impact of dietary factors on health. Written as a resource for researchers, nutrition educators, and policy makers, this book...

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...

RNA Worlds: From Life's Origins to Diversity in Gene Regulation

RNA Worlds: From Life's Origins to Diversity in Gene Regulation
by John F. Atkins (Editor), Raymond F. Gesteland (Editor), Thomas R. Cech (Editor)


Once thought to be just a messenger that allows genetic information encoded in DNA to direct the formation of proteins, RNA (ribonucleic acid) is now known to be a highly versatile molecule that has multiple roles in cells. It can function as an enzyme, scaffold various subcellular structures, and regulate gene expression through a variety of mechanisms, as well as act as a key component of the protein synthesis and splicing machinery. Perhaps most interestingly, increasing evidence indicates that RNA preceded DNA as the hereditary material and played a crucial role in the early evolution of life on Earth. This volume reviews our understanding of two RNA worlds: the primordial RNA world before DNA, in which RNA was both information store and biocatalyst; and the contemporary RNA world, in...

Gene Regulation and Metabolism: Post-Genomic Computational Approaches (Computational Molecular Biology)

Gene Regulation and Metabolism: Post-Genomic Computational Approaches (Computational Molecular Biology)
by Julio Collado-Vides (Editor), Ralf Hofestädt (Editor)


As exciting as the new field of genomics is, it has not yet produced a basic conceptual change in biology. The fundamental problems remain: the origin of life, cell organization, the pathways of differentiation, aging, and the molecular and cellular capabilities of the brain. What has occurred is an explosion of molecular information obtained by genomic sequences, which will soon be followed by exhaustive catalogs of protein interactions and protein function. This wealth of information can be analyzed and manipulated only with the help of computers. The rapidly expanding role of computers in biology may usher in a profound conceptual change in how we study living...

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

© 2015 BrightSurf.com