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UC San Diego engineer provides insights to decades-old DNA squabble
Date:7/31/2009

A group of nanoengineers, biologists and physicists have used innovative approaches to deduce the internal structure of chromatin, a key player in DNA regulation, to reconcile a longstanding controversy in this field. This new finding could unlock the mystery behind the origin of many diseases such as cancer.

The details of this breakthrough discovery are highlighted in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) called "Evidence for heteromorphic chromatin fibers from analysis of nucleosome interactions." The authors include Gaurav Arya, a nanoengineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, as well as researchers from Penn State University, University of Massachusetts, and New York University.

The internal structure of chromatin is not knowna mystery that has baffled scientists for more than three decades. Chromatin is a complex combination of DNA and proteins that makes up chromosomes. The function of chromatin is to package DNA into a smaller volume to fit in the cell. Chromatin also plays an important role in the regulation of genetic processes like DNA replication, transcription, recombination, and repair because all these processes depend critically on the accessibility of the DNA, which is directly controlled by chromatin. A loosely folded chromatin fiber allows easy access to DNA sequences while a tightly folded fiber prevents or inhibits such access.

This newfound discovery by Arya and his colleagues could help scientists better understand how chromatin folds and unfolds to regulate gene activities, as well as understand the origin of genetic diseases like cancer. For example, he said, lots of diseases including cancer are directly linked to abnormal regulation of chromatin.

The structure of chromatin has been a subject of many controversies during the last 30 years, with two different models being the focus of debate. The new findings by Arya and his coll
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Contact: Andrea Siedsma
asiedsma@soe.ucsd.edu
858-822-0899
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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