New technology detect cellular memory

February 23, 2014

Cells in our body are constantly dividing to maintain our body functions. At each division, our DNA code and a whole machinery of supporting components has to be faithfully duplicated to maintain the cell's memory of its own identity. Researchers at BRIC, University of Copenhagen, have developed a new technology that has revealed the dynamic events of this duplication process and the secrets of cellular memory. The results are published in Nature Cell Biology.

In 2009, two women at BRIC, University of Copenhagen joined forces to develop a new technology that could elucidate the mystery behind cellular memory. Today, they are celebrating their first big discovery using this technology.

"Our technology can isolate the small molecular building blocks that bind to our DNA strand and organize it into a stringent architecture. Importantly, our technology can follow the dynamic duplication processes in our cells and can therefore reveal the life cycle of these DNA-complexes", says postdoc Constance Alabert who has been leading the laboratory work.

The molecular building blocks that our DNA is wrapped around are called histones and together, the DNA strand and the histones form a stringent structure called chromatin. When our cells divide during development and throughout life to maintain our body functions, the DNA code has to be faithfully duplicated and so do the chromatin and its architecture. Chromatin contains crucial information that tells our genes when to be active and when to be silent. For example, information stored in the chromatin silence liver specific genes in heart cells and vice versa. Therefore, the entire chromatin structure has to be duplicated at each cell division to maintain a cell's memory of its own identity.

It is no longer debated that the chromatin structure is crucial to maintain cell identity, but the how remains. As only hypothesis driven approaches has been available to study the dynamic event of chromatin duplication, only few molecular factors have been linked to the process.

"With our new technology, we have identified 100 new molecular components that appear to be involved in the tightly regulated process of chromatin duplication and thereby maintenance of cell memory. Thus, we provide a robust technology and the first comprehensive resource to address fundamental questions regarding maintenance of cell identity", says associate professor Anja Groth, who is heading the laboratory.

Understanding the fundamental principles of how chromatin is faithfully duplicated is essential to understand how our organism is developed and maintained, and also how diseases such as cancer arise. If cells lose their chromatin memory, they can potentially develop into cancer cells and form tumours. Such a loss of what is also called 'epigenetic' memory is now known to be involved in almost all cancer types. The next step for the researchers will be to decipher the mode of action of the 100 new chromatin factors.
-end-


University of Copenhagen

Related DNA Articles from Brightsurf:

A new twist on DNA origami
A team* of scientists from ASU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) led by Hao Yan, ASU's Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, and director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, has just announced the creation of a new type of meta-DNA structures that will open up the fields of optoelectronics (including information storage and encryption) as well as synthetic biology.

Solving a DNA mystery
''A watched pot never boils,'' as the saying goes, but that was not the case for UC Santa Barbara researchers watching a ''pot'' of liquids formed from DNA.

Junk DNA might be really, really useful for biocomputing
When you don't understand how things work, it's not unusual to think of them as just plain old junk.

Designing DNA from scratch: Engineering the functions of micrometer-sized DNA droplets
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have constructed ''DNA droplets'' comprising designed DNA nanostructures.

Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?
Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method to count individual fish by measuring the concentration of environmental DNA in the water, which could be applied for quantitative monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.

Zigzag DNA
How the cell organizes DNA into tightly packed chromosomes. Nature publication by Delft University of Technology and EMBL Heidelberg.

Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.

DNA is like everything else: it's not what you have, but how you use it
A new paradigm for reading out genetic information in DNA is described by Dr.

A new spin on DNA
For decades, researchers have chased ways to study biological machines.

From face to DNA: New method aims to improve match between DNA sample and face database
Predicting what someone's face looks like based on a DNA sample remains a hard nut to crack for science.

Read More: DNA News and DNA Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.