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Unravelling new complexity in the genome
Date:8/13/2007

o the power of a new tool that he, together with his colleagues including Profs. Brendan Frey (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Timothy Hughes (Banting and Best, CCBR), developed a few years ago. This tool, which comprises tailored designed microarrays or gene chips and computer algorithms, allows the simultaneous measurement of thousands of alternative splicing events in cells and tissues. Until recently researchers studied splicing regulation on a gene by gene basis. Now we can obtain a picture of what is happening on a global scale, which provides a fascinating new perspective on how genes are regulated, Blencowe explains.

A challenge now is to figure out how the alternative splicing process is regulated in a cell and tissue-specific manner. In their new paper in Genome Biology, Dr. Yoseph Barash, a postdoctoral fellow working jointly with Blencowe and Frey, has provided what is likely part of the answer. By applying computational methods to the gene chip data generated by Matthew Fagnani (an MSc student) and other members of the Blencowe lab, Barash has uncovered what appears to be part of a regulatory code that controls alternative splicing patterns in the brain.

One outcome of these new studies is that the alternative splicing process appears to provide a largely separate layer of gene regulation that works in parallel with other important steps in gene regulation. The number of genes and coordinated regulatory events involved in specifying cell and tissue type characteristics appear to be considerably more extensive than appreciated in previous studies, says Blencowe. These findings also have implications for understanding human diseases such as cancers, since we can anticipate a more extensive role for altered regulation of splicing events that similarly went unnoticed due to the lack of the appropriate technology allowing their detection.


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Contact: Benjamin Blencowe
b.blencowe@utoronto.ca
416-978-3016
University of Toronto
Source:Eurekalert

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