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Epigenetics enigma resolved
Date:12/25/2013

on genes that are turned off or on repetitive regions of the genome. 5-mC helps shut off genes that aren't supposed to be turned on (depending on the cell type) and changes in 5-mC's distribution underpin a healthy cell's transformation into a cancer cell.

In contrast to 5-mC, 5-hmC appears to be enriched on active genes, especially in brain cells. Having a Tet enzyme form 5-hmC seems to be a way for cells to erase or at least modify the "off" signal provided by 5-mC, although the functions of 5-hmC are an active topic of investigation, Cheng says.

Alterations of the Tet enzymes have been found in forms of leukemia, so having information on the enzymes' molecular structure could help scientists design drugs that interfere with them.

N. gruberi is a single-celled organism found in soil or fresh water that can take the form of an amoeba or a flagellate; its close relative N. fowleri can cause deadly brain infections. Cheng says his team chose to study the enzyme from Naegleria because it was smaller and simpler and thus easier to crystallize than mammalian forms of the enzyme, yet still resembles mammalian forms in protein sequence.

Mammalian Tet enzymes appear to have an additional regulatory domain that the Naegleria forms do not; understanding how that domain works will be a new puzzle opened up by having the Naegleria structure, Cheng says.


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Contact: Quinn Eastman
qeastma@emory.edu
404-727-7829
Emory Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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