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:
|Contact: Emily Wilmsen|
Colorado State University