Genome Institute of Singapore's (GIS) Associate Director of Genomic Technologies, Dr Yijun RUAN, led a continuing study on the human genome spatial/structural configuration, revealing how genes interact/communicate and influence each other, even when they are located far away from each other. This discovery is crucial in understanding how human genes work together, and will re-write textbooks on how transcription regulation and coordination takes place in human cells.
The discovery was published in Cell, on 19 January 2012. The GIS is a research institute under the umbrella of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
Using a genomic technology invented by Dr Ruan and his team, called ChIA-PET, the Singapore-led international group, which is part of the ENCODE (ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements) consortium, uncovered some of the fundamental mechanisms that regulate the gene expression in human cells.
"Scientists have always tried to understand how the large number of genes in an organism is regulated and coordinated to carry out the genetic programs encoded in the genome for cellular functions in our cells. It had been viewed that genes in higher organisms were individually expressed, while multiple related genes in low organisms like bacteria were arranged linearly together as operon  and transcribed in single unit," Dr Ruan explained. "The new findings in this study revealed that although genes in human genomes are located far away from each other, related genes are in fact organised through long-range chromatin interactions and higher-order chromosomal conformations. This suggests a topological basis akin to the bacteria operon system for coordinated transcription regulation. This topological mechanism for transcription regulation and coordination also provides insights to understand genetic elements that are involved in human diseases."
GIS' executive director Prof Huck Hui NG said: "This is an impor
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Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore