To understand the emerging science of epigeneticsa field that describes how genes may be regulated without altering the underlying DNA itselfscientists are deciphering the many ways in which enzymes act on the proteins surrounding DNA within cells.
One type of these enzymes, proteins known as histone acetyltransferases (HATs), act on DNA by modifying DNA-bound proteins called histones. This act of modification, called acetlyation, can dictate how histones interact with DNA and other proteins affecting processes such as DNA replication, transcription (reading the gene), and repair. In the February 9 issue of the journal Structure, available online, researchers at The Wistar Institute are the first to describe the complete atomic structure formed by a yeast HAT, known as Rtt109, and one of its associated proteins. Their findings demonstrate how a particular histone acetylation event works, a crucial step to understanding epigenetics and the related processes that underlie both health and disease.
According to the study's senior author, Ronen Marmorstein, Ph.D., professor and program leader of Wistar's Gene Expression and Regulation Program, two copies of Rtt109 bind to two copies of a "chaperone" protein to form a ring.
"The ring fits atop a histone much like a halo, and we find that the type of chaperone dictates exactly how the enzyme affects the histone by determining the exact position of acetylation," said Marmorstein. "The structure represents a nice model system for the regulation of protein acetylation, and teaches us something new about the biology of this enzyme, Rtt109."
The act of acetylation adds an "acetyl group," a small chemical structure, to a lysineone of the amino acids that make up a given protein. Altering one lysine could change the shape of a protein, such as a histone, in a subtle way, perhaps redirecting how it functions. Rtt109, the researchers say, acetylates any of three specific lysines on hi
|Contact: Greg Lester|
The Wistar Institute