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International team compares 12 fruit fly genomes
Date:11/8/2007

somes, banded into distinct segments corresponding to specific genetic loci.

Polytene chromosomes give geneticists a window on the mechanics of gene activation and transcription, particularly with the advent of new optical and molecular imaging techniques that allow studies of living tissue in real time.

John Lis, the Barbara McClintock Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell, notes in the current issue of Nature that those new studies -- combined with other genetic and biochemical data on Drosophila and mammals -- could lead to a shift in the way scientists understand how gene expression is regulated in cells.

A key question is the regulation of RNA polymerase II (Pol II), an enzyme that binds to DNA and catalyzes the production of messenger RNA. Researchers have long thought that the rate of transcription is limited by the time it takes Pol II to be recruited to the promoter region, where it copies a strand of DNA into RNA. But increasing evidence in Drosophila and other organisms indicates that Pol II frequently exists in a "paused" state at the promoter: Already having made a short RNA, it awaits further regulatory signals before completing transcription. This is leading to new questions about the regulation of transcription.

"The field is changing," said Lis. But many of the answers may still lie with the tiny fruit fly.


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Contact: Blaine Friedlander
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-254-8093
Cornell University Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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