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Discoveries in mitochondria open new field of cancer research
Date:6/20/2011

leads the researchers to believe that a system of gene control similar to what occurs in the nucleus is present in mitochondria, functioning to ensure the correct levels of proteins needed for proper energy generation.

"In diseases such as cancer, epigenetic control is lost," says Taylor. "Genes that should be switched on are switched off and vice versa, leading to uncontrolled growth. Our research indicates that errors in gene expression could be unfolding in mitochondria, possibly contributing to loss of mitochondrial function typical of cancer and a host of other age-related diseases."

Taylor's team is currently working to force into mitochondria more of the enzyme responsible for forming the silencing mark, and to identify enzymes responsible for removing it. This should allow the researchers to observe whether these marks impact mitochondrial ability to generate energy. The researchers are also comparing the amount of DNA methylation in diseased cells versus healthy cells to determine whether mitochondrial gene expression plays a role in various diseases.

"Many diseases that afflict the elderly seem to have defects in mitochondrial function," says Taylor. "We are working to determine whether epigenetic control is a factor contributing to these defects. If so, drugs known to impact gene expression in the nucleus may be useful in reversing damage caused by improper gene expression in mitochondria."


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Contact: John Wallace
wallacej@vcu.edu
804-628-1550
Virginia Commonwealth University
Source:Eurekalert

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