What makes us unique? Not only our genesMarch 18, 2010
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 Dna Articles:
New license-free tools will allow researchers to estimate the size of DNA fragments for a fraction of the cost of currently available methods.
How can long DNA filaments, which have convoluted and highly knotted structure, manage to pass through the tiny pores of biological systems?
Since a couple of decades, metal-containing drugs have been successfully used to fight against certain types of cancer.
A Caltech-led study has shown that the electrical wire-like behavior of DNA is involved in the molecule's replication.
DNA, the stuff of life, may very well also pack quite the jolt for engineers trying to advance the development of tiny, low-cost electronic devices.
Northwestern University biomedical engineers have developed imaging technology that is the first to see DNA 'blink,' or fluoresce.
A Salk team developed a tool that maps functional areas of the genome to better understand disease.
In a carefully designed polymer, researchers at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences have imprinted a sequence of a single strand of DNA.
The African clawed frog X. laevis genome contains two full sets of chromosomes from two extinct ancestors.
Church's team at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Harvard Medical School developed a new electronic DNA sequencing platform based on biologically engineered nanopores that could help overcome present limitations.
Related Dna Reading:
DNA: The Story of the Genetic Revolution
by James D. Watson (Author), Andrew Berry (Author), Kevin Davies (Author)
The definitive insider's history of the genetic revolution--significantly updated to reflect the discoveries of the last decade.
James D. Watson, the Nobel laureate whose pioneering work helped unlock the mystery of DNA's structure, charts the greatest scientific journey of our time, from the discovery of the double helix to today's controversies to what the future may hold. Updated to include new findings in gene editing, epigenetics, agricultural chemistry, as well as two entirely new chapters on personal genomics and cancer research. This is the most comprehensive and... View Details
The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy
by Blaine T. Bettinger (Author)
Unlock the secrets in your DNA!
Discover the answers to your family history mysteries using the most-cutting edge tool available. This plain-English guide is a one-stop resource for how to use DNA testing for genealogy. Inside, you'll find guidance on what DNA tests are available, plus the methodologies and pros and cons of the three major testing companies and advice on choosing the right test to answer your specific genealogy questions. And once you've taken a DNA test, this guide will demystify the often-overwhelming subject and explain how to interpret DNA test results,... View Details
DNA: A Graphic Guide to the Molecule that Shook the World
by Israel Rosenfield (Author), Edward Ziff (Author), Borin Van Loon (Author)
With humor, depth, and philosophical and historical insight, DNA reaches out to a wide range of readers with its graphic portrayal of a complicated science. Suitable for use in and out of the classroom, this volume covers DNA's many marvels, from its original discovery in 1869 to early-twentieth-century debates on the mechanisms of inheritance and the deeper nature of life's evolution and variety.
Even readers who lack a background in science and philosophy will learn a tremendous amount from this engaging narrative. The book elucidates DNA's relationship to health and the... View Details
DNA Science: A First Course, Second Edition
by David Micklos (Author), Greg Freyer (Author)
This is the second edition of a highly successful textbook (over 50,000 copies sold) in which a highly illustrated, narrative text is combined with easytouse thoroughly reliable laboratory protocols. It contains a fully uptodate collection of 12 rigorously tested and reliable lab experiments in molecular biology, developed at the internationally renowned Dolan DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which culminate in the construction and cloning of a recombinant DNA molecule. Proven through more than 10 years of teaching at research and nonresearch colleges and universities,... View Details
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
by Scott Galloway (Author)
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
USA TODAY BESTSELLER
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four most influential companies on the planet. Just about everyone thinks they know how they got there. Just about everyone is wrong.
For all that’s been written about the Four over the last two decades, no one has captured their power and staggering success as insightfully as Scott Galloway.
Instead of buying the myths these companies broadcast, Galloway asks fundamental questions. How did the Four infiltrate our lives so completely that... View Details
Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement Expanded Edition
by Katy Bowman (Author)
Humorous, fascinating, and science based, the bestselling first edition of Move Your DNA has been updated and expanded to include a comprehensive three-level exercise program.
In layperson-friendly terms Move Your DNA addresses the vast quantities of disease we are suffering from, identifying our lack of movement as the primary cause. Readers can use the corrective exercises and lifestyle changes Katy Bowman has created to help each of us transition to healthy, naturally moving bodies. Move Your DNA explains the science behind our need for natural movement right down... View Details
The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
by Jeff Dyer (Author), Hal Gregersen (Author), Clayton M. Christensen (Author)
A new classic, cited by leaders and media around the globe as a highly recommended read for anyone interested in innovation.
In The Innovator’s DNA, authors Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and bestselling author Clayton Christensen (The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Innovator’s Solution, How Will You Measure Your Life?) build on what we know about disruptive innovation to show how individuals can develop the skills necessary to move progressively from idea to impact.
By identifying behaviors of the world’s best innovatorsfrom leaders at Amazon and... View Details
The DNA of Relationships
by Gary Smalley (Author)
“Life is relationships; the rest is just details.” We are designed for relationships, yet they often bring us pain. In this paradigm-shifting book, Dr. Gary Smalley unravels the DNA of relationships: We are made for three great relationships―with God, others, and ourselves―and all relationships involve choice. Gary exposes a destructive relationship dance that characterizes nearly every relationship conflict, and he offers five new dance steps that will revolutionize relationships. The DNA of Relationships, the cornerstone book in Gary Smalley's relationship campaign, will help you... View Details
DNA: The Secret of Life
by James D. Watson (Author)
James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and author of the international bestseller The Double Helix, tells the story of the amazing molecule since its discovery fifty years ago, following modern genetics from his own Nobel prize-winning work in the fifties to today's Dolly the sheep, designer babies and GM foods. Professor Watson introduces the science of modern genetics, along with its history and its implications, in this magnificent guide to one of the most triumphant achievements of human science. View Details
Genetics For Dummies
by Tara Rodden Robinson (Author)
A plain-English guide to genetics
Want to know more about genetics? This non-intimidating guide gets you up to speed on all the fundamentals and the most recent discoveries. Now with 25% new and revised material, Genetics For Dummies, 2nd Edition gives you clear and accessible coverage of this rapidly advancing field.
From dominant and recessive inherited traits to the DNA double-helix, you get clear explanations in easy-to-understand terms. Plus, you'll see how people are applying genetic science to fight disease, develop new products, solve crimes . . . and even... View Details