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Colorado State University biochemists study how chromosomes unravel to let genes do their jobs
Date:5/4/2010

g is very fundamental to life, and the environment here at CSU, and in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, gives us a significant edge," Nyborg said.

In every living cell, bulky proteins must maneuver through the densely packed nucleosomes to access the genes so that the DNA can be copied first into RNA and then into protein. That process occurs at thousands of genes in every cell in the body and results in giving each cell its unique instructions for example, telling a liver cell how to be a liver cell and not a brain cell.

But scientists have limited understanding of how the cell gains access to individual genes that are tightly compacted into chromosomes.

"We know that nucleosomes serve to compact the DNA to fit into a cell nucleus; what remains a long-standing mystery is how genes - encoded by the DNA - are unwound from the nucleosomes to allow access for copying their instructions into proteins with a specific biological outcome for the cell," Nyborg said. "The cell faces an enormous paradox it must tightly wrap the DNA around nucleosomes for compaction, but at the same time it must unwrap the DNA at specific sites to turn a gene on."

The key to this process is manipulating the nucleosomes. The cell must strategically move or remove nucleosomes from the DNA to gain access to the underlying gene.

To understand more about how genes function in their densely packed intracellular environment, the three women will tackle three independent, yet highly interdependent biochemistry research projects through the grant:

  • Nyborg will tackle basic biochemistry that will reveal how the nucleosomes are disassembled to expose the DNA of the gene. She has developed a unique experimental system in a test-tube that resembles the process of nucleosome movement in a living cell. This system will provide a much greater understanding of nucleosome dynamics. Nyborg has been honored for her teaching and
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Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
970-491-2336
Colorado State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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