SMU and UNC researchers make an advance in our understanding of gene regulation

September 26, 2002

DALLAS (SMU) -- Researchers from Southern Methodist University and the University of North Carolina have made an important advance in our understanding of gene regulation. The new insight comes from discovering the biochemical mechanisms by which an important protein works to silence genes.

Their findings are published online today at www.scienceexpress.org and will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Science. Advance publication on scienceexpress.org typically indicates that the editors of Science want to get the information out in the public domain as soon as possible because of its importance.

The protein studied by the researchers is called E(Z). It belongs to a group of proteins known as Polycomb-group that may play an important role in turning other genes off during development. Some researchers believe Polycomb-group genes are involved in causing cancer, particularly some leukemias. This may happen when mutated versions of the genes fail to work properly, causing an overproliferation of blood cells or failing to make cells differentiate properly.

About 15 Polycomb-group genes have been discovered so far. The E(z) gene was discovered by Swedish researchers in 1974. Rick Jones, an associate professor of biological sciences at SMU, has been using genetic and molecular biological approaches to understand the activities of the E(z) gene and the protein it encodes since he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard in 1984. Liangjun Wang, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences, contributed to the research. The research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

While the SMU researchers studied the E(Z) protein in Drosophila, UNC researchers succeeded in purifying a protein complex that includes a human version of the E(Z) protein. In the chromosomes of all animal and plant cells, DNA is associated with chromosomal proteins as chromatin. An important aspect of gene regulation involves modifying the manner in which individual genes are packaged in chromatin, which may permit or prevent their expression. The SMU and UNC groups demonstrated that E(Z) silences genes by making specific modifications to a particular chromatin protein and that this mechanism is the same in both humans and Drosophila.

"This is a fundamental discovery about how chromatin can repress gene expression," said Larry Ruben, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at SMU.
-end-
Research in SMU's Department of Biological Sciences focuses on four key scientific areas: the control of gene expression, the ability of life to capture energy, the mechanisms of aging and how infectious agents affect cellular behavior.

Southern Methodist University news releases can be found on the World Wide Web at http://newsmedia.smu.edu

Southern Methodist University

Related Protein Articles from Brightsurf:

The protein dress of a neuron
New method marks proteins and reveals the receptors in which neurons are dressed

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, linked to lower risk of death
Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, are associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ today.

A new understanding of protein movement
A team of UD engineers has uncovered the role of surface diffusion in protein transport, which could aid biopharmaceutical processing.

A new biotinylation enzyme for analyzing protein-protein interactions
Proteins play roles by interacting with various other proteins. Therefore, interaction analysis is an indispensable technique for studying the function of proteins.

Substituting the next-best protein
Children born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy have a mutation in the X-chromosome gene that would normally code for dystrophin, a protein that provides structural integrity to skeletal muscles.

A direct protein-to-protein binding couples cell survival to cell proliferation
The regulators of apoptosis watch over cell replication and the decision to enter the cell cycle.

A protein that controls inflammation
A study by the research team of Prof. Geert van Loo (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) has unraveled a critical molecular mechanism behind autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and psoriasis.

Resurrecting ancient protein partners reveals origin of protein regulation
After reconstructing the ancient forms of two cellular proteins, scientists discovered the earliest known instance of a complex form of protein regulation.

Sensing protein wellbeing
The folding state of the proteins in live cells often reflect the cell's general health.

Read More: Protein News and Protein 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.