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Cell division speed influences gene architecture
Date:4/23/2014

Speed-reading is a technique used to read quickly. It involves visual searching for clues to meaning and skipping non-essential words and/ or sentences. Similarly to humans, biological systems are sometimes under selective pressure to quickly "read" genetic information. Genes that need to be read quickly are usually small, as the smaller the encoding message, the easier it will be to read them quickly. Now, researchers from Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia (IGC, Portugal) and Centre for Molecular and Structural Biomedicine (University of Algarve, Portugal) discovered that, besides size, the gene architecture is also important to the optimization of the "reading" process. This study was now published in the open access scientific journal eLife*.

The research team led by Rui Martinho hit upon these findings while studying the earlier stages of the development in the fruit fly (scientific name, Drosophila melanogaster). It was known that the timing and coordination of the cell cycle and gene expression are crucial for normal development. In the earlier stages of development, cells divide very rapidly, but at the same time they need to correctly 'read' their genes in order to produce the required proteins. Genes contain the 'code' to produce proteins, but also contain sequences, called introns, that are not required for this process and therefore need to be removed before protein synthesis.

By reducing the efficiency of the cell machinery that removes introns, the research team observed that the failure on the "reading" only occurred in those genes that were expressed during early embryogenesis, in other words when cells were dividing rapidly. This observation lead them to the idea that the process of intron removal is time-consuming, generating a problem in highly proliferative tissues that have a narrow time window to express genes and produce proteins. The researchers confirmed this hypothesis introducing an untypical gene conta
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Contact: Ana Mena
anamena@igc.gulbenkian.pt
351-214-407-959
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia
Source:Eurekalert  

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