Navigation Links
Einstein researchers develop technique to count messages made by single genes

November 16, 2008 In a study in the advance online edition of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine describe a technique for looking more precisely at a fundamental step of a cell's life a gene, DNA, being read into a message, mRNA. The technique could provide a window into the process by which genes are switched on inappropriately, causing disease.

The new technique provides a detailed look into processes that until now were proven but never visualized. The more detailed view of DNA being made into RNA in a single cell will help answer questions about how much of a gene is made over time and how much that level varies from cell to cell. Insight into how genes work at a more precise level, ultimately advances understanding of disease mechanisms that trigger cancer, for example, which arise when genes no longer work at their correct capacity or time.

"The classic textbook cartoon illustration of a single strand of DNA with little mRNA pieces coming off it can now be shown with real photographs," explained Daniel Zenklusen, Ph.D., an Einstein post-doctoral fellow and first author of the study. The technique was developed in the laboratory of Robert Singer, Ph.D., co-chair and professor of anatomy and structural biology at Einstein.

The new technology is a powerful refinement of fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH), developed in Dr. Singer's laboratory more than 26 years ago. FISH is now a widely used research tool to study gene activation; that is how much a gene has been "turned on" in groups of cells. FISH is also used in genetic counseling to detect the presence of gene features that diagnose conditions including Down's syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome.

Advances in fluorescence, microscopy and data analysis enabled the more powerful FISH application described in the paper. Until this work, FISH could only be used to look at genes or their messages that are present at very high levels and only in tissues, not at the smaller level of the cell. However, this it the first time that all the individual mRNA molecules within single cells can be counted.

Dr. Singer's "single RNA counting" technique has the potential to change some fundamental theories about how genes are regulated. As Dr. Singer explained, "our study using this new technique has already generated enough new ideas to keep students busy for the next 10 years."

One of the most important findings of this study was that "housekeeping" genes, which all cells need to survive, are not always expressed at a constant level. Variability, however, is restricted to a narrow range that seems to be characteristic for housekeeping genes. Combining single molecule measurement with mathematical modeling allowed the team to precisely determine how variability is controlled. This showed that unlike the findings of previous studies, housekeeping genes are not transcribed by transcriptional bursts but at a fairly constant rate. Bursting expression, however, is found for special classes for genes where higher variability might be an advantage for the cell. The next step is to see if this continuous/non-bursting theory of housekeeping gene control applies also to human cells. The work from Dr. Singer's group was performed in yeast cells.

Dr. Singer believes the approach of looking at biological processes in natural contexts (rather than in a test tube) at a single cell level reveals details that can advance the field of cancer and other disease research. "Cancer derives from a single cell. So current microarray technologies that are used on a tissue-wide level and are based on "grinding up a tumor" may be a good first step at directing us where to focus, but they may need to be combined with newer techniques that provide the precision to home in on single cells," Dr. Singer said.


Contact: Michael Heller
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Related biology news :

1. Einstein researcher receives NIH grant to explore epigenetic regulation of the human genome
2. Einstein researchers receive grants totaling $700,000 for innovative breast cancer research
3. Feinstein researchers develop new genetic method and identify novel genes for schizophrenia
4. In scientific first, Einstein researchers correct decline in organ function associated with old age
5. Einstein researchers develop a new way to study how breast cancer spreads
6. Researchers identify proteins involved in new neurodegenerative syndrome
7. Texas researchers and educators head for Antarctica
8. MGH researchers describe new way to identify, evolve novel enzymes
9. University of Pennsylvania researchers develop formula to gauge risk of disease clusters
10. U of MN researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
11. U of Minnesota researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/16/2015)... 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), ... announced expansion of its TDDI product portfolio with ... and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions designed to ... TDDI products add to the previously-announced TD4300 ... resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. All four ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... segmented on the basis of product, type, ... segments included in this report are consumables, ... this report are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, ... in this report are diagnostics development, drug ...
(Date:11/2/2015)... , Nov. 2, 2015  SRI International has ... to provide preclinical development services to the National Cancer ... SRI will provide scientific expertise, modern testing and support ... of preclinical pharmacology and toxicology studies to evaluate potential ... --> The PREVENT Cancer Drug Development Program is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS; TSX: ... prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights the following ... received DSMB recommendation to continue the ZoptEC Phase ... the final interim efficacy and safety data ... men with heavily pretreated castration- and Taxane-resistant prostate ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman and ... early in their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it forward ... make early stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they join ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... Conference in New York on Wednesday, December ... Helen Torley , president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. ... New York at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . ... investor relations, will provide a corporate overview. --> th ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: ... behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as ... no corporate developments that would cause the recent movements ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... --> Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company ...
Breaking Biology Technology: