European researchers have made significant progress unravelling how genes are governed and why this sometimes goes wrong in disease. The key lies in the dynamic ever-changing structure of the chromatin, which is the underlying complex of protein and DNA making up the chromosomes in which almost all genes are housed within the genome. The way this structure changes and responds to external signalling molecules within the cell determines how and when genes are expressed and also the mechanisms used to repair DNA damaged by a variety of internal and external insults, such as ultra violet radiation and free radical by-products of metabolism.
Understanding the structure of chromatin and its interactions with proteins and RNA within the cell was the goal of the European Science Foundation's (ESF) EuroDYNA programme, which held its last conference at the Wellcome Trust Conference Centre near Cambridge in May 2008. The study of genome structure involves interaction between various disciplines including cell biology, molecular physics, biomechanics and bioinformatics, as well as access to a wide range of expensive equipment such as electron microscopes, supercomputers, and scanners for simultaneous profiling of RNA expression across the whole genome. EuroDYNA helped broker these collaborations and enable projects to develop the critical mass needed to make real progress.
The expression of genes involves an apparatus comprised mostly of proteins for reading the DNA, leading to production of RNA. This RNA in turn is either transported within the cell to the protein factory called the ribosome, where the code is translated into proteins, or else it interacts with other genes to control their expression in turn. These processes are intimately related to the constantly changing physical and chemical structure of the chromatin. Furthermore the overall state of the genome evolves during the life cycle of the cell, leading to its duplication if and when the c
|Contact: Astrid Lunkes|
European Science Foundation