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

f variables in the system by eliminating the variables that are not important at the length and time scales of interest. "This research emphasizes how engineering tools can provide new insights into biology," he added.

"When we talk about cancer and its link to abnormal gene regulation, we have to ask the question why are these genes misfiring? In the end, it boils down to the protein machinery that makes up and regulates chromatin," he explained. "You could have mutations in the oncogenic or tumor suppressor genes that lead to cancer or you could have abnormalities in the proteins that regulate chromatin around these genes leading to cancer."

The next step for Arya and his team is to study the mechanisms by which chromatin is regulated, and how those lead to genes being switched "on" and "off," genes being repaired in response to mutations, and genes being replicated during cell division. Arya believes that a molecular-level understanding of such mechanisms could lead to the development of better drugs that will directly target the chromatin around abnormally regulated genes to correct their activity. "In fact, there are already drugs being developed called HDIs (histone deacetylase inhibitors) that can modulate structure of chromatin around oncogenic genes so as to inhibit cancer progression, though their exact mechanisms are not fully known," Arya said.

"The scientific community is quite fascinated by DNA and they tend to forget that DNA is rarely present in its naked double-stranded helix form in higher organisms like humans, but that it is always associated with proteins in this complex aggregate we call chromatin," he added. "Undoubtedly, DNA codes for nearly all the proteins and RNAs manufactured inside our cells but how, when, and which genes are turned on and off is almost completely determined by the structure, dynamics, and chemical properties of chromatin. We now know how chromatin compacts and what its internal structu
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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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