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Multiple 'siblings' from every gene: Alternate gene reading leads to alternate gene products
Date:7/11/2011

A genome-wide survey by researchers at The Wistar Institute shows how our cells create alternate versions of mRNA transcripts by altering how they "read" DNA. Many genes are associated with multiple gene promoters, the researchers say, which is the predominant way multiple variants of a given gene, for example, can be made with the same genetic instructions.

Their findings, which appear in the journal Genome Research, available online now, show how genes are read in developing and adult brains, and identify the changes in reading DNA that accompany brain development. Changes in how the cell reads the DNA create multiple RNA variants, which can lead to alternative forms of proteins (called isoforms). The Wistar researchers discovered numerous novel gene products, many of which are alternatively used during brain development. They found that genes linked to neurological disorders produce many variants/isoforms in the brain and that the isoforms produced in medullablastoma, a highly malignant form of brain cancer, were different for some genes from the isoforms found in normal adult brains.

"If a given gene is associated with multiple promoters, it creates multiple ways for a gene to be read in different cell-types or developmental stages. Consequently, each gene can produce a bunch of alternative products, like siblings of a family, who might probably do different things at different times (developmental stages) or different places (cells)," said Ramana Davuluri, Ph.D., associate professor in the Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program at Wistar, and co-director of Wistar's Center for Systems and Computational Biology. "Think of two brothers for example, one a high-speed jet airline pilot and the other a much slower-paced bus driver. They both shuttle people around in vehicles, but imagine the damage they could do if they switch jobs for the day."

For example, Davuluri and his colleagues found several genes in developing brains that
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Contact: Greg Lester
glester@wistar.org
215-898-3943
The Wistar Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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