DURHAM, N.C. -- By surveying the activity of thousands of genes at several different time points, researchers at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy have uncovered new evidence that a network of influential genes act as a kind of genetic tag team to orchestrate one of the most fundamental aspects of all life: the cell cycle.
A cell doesnt want to divide before it is finished copying its DNA or it will end up with broken chromosomes, a failure with potentially devastating consequences, said Steven Haase, an assistant professor of biology at Duke and member of the IGSP.
He added that although the new insights into the cell cycle were made in single-celled yeast, they may well apply to human cells. Essentially everything that works in yeast has its functional analog in mammalian cells, Haase said.
He and his colleagues at the IGSPs Center for Systems Biology reported their findings in an advanced online publication of the journal Nature on May 7, 2008. The work was supported by the American Cancer Society, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Scientists thought they had already identified all of the major players in keeping cells on track. Earlier studies of small numbers of genes indicated that the carefully timed program of cell growth and division was governed by a handful of genes aptly known as cyclins, along with their partners, the CDKs. (The scientists who first identified these genes received a Nobel Prize for their discovery in 2001).
To see how significant a role cyclins actually have, the Duke team took a look at the bigger picture --an ability only recently made possible by advances in genome technologies, Haase noted.
Its a new way of thinking, he said. Weve spent decades on a reductionist approach to science -- in which researchers typically knock out one or two genes to see what they do. That method has been phenom
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