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Fox Chase researchers discover new mechanism of gene regulation
Date:2/26/2014

In the cells of humans and other organisms, only a subset of genes are active at any given time, depending largely on the stage of life and the particular duties of the cell. Cells use different molecular mechanisms to orchestrate the activation and deactivation of genes as needed. One central mechanism is an intricate DNA packaging system that either shields genes from activation or exposes them for use.

In this system, the DNA strand, with its genes, is coiled around molecules known as histones, which themselves are assembled into larger entities called nucleosomes. Together, nucleosomes and DNA form chromatin, which is the primary substance of chromosomes. This DNA-packaging system is vital for managing development and maintaining health. When it goes awry, cancer can be the result.

In a study published in Molecular Cell this month, Alexei V. Tulin, PhD, Associate Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and colleagues reported that chemical modification of one type of histonecalled H2Avleads to substantial changes in nucleosome shape. As a consequence, a previously hidden portion of the nucleosome becomes exposed. This newly exposed portion interacts with and activates an enzyme called PARP1. Upon activation, PARP1 assembles long branching molecules of Poly(ADP-ribose), which appear to open the DNA packaging around the site of the PARP1 activation, exposing specific genes for activation.

"Currently, the nucleosome is often portrayed as a stable, inert structure, or a tiny ball," Tulin says. "We found that the nucleosome is actually a quite dynamic structure. When we modified one histone, we changed the whole nucleosome."

In addition to reevaluating how histones control gene activation, the study also reports a new mechanism of PARP1 regulation. Many standard cancer treatments, including chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy, damage the DNA of rapidly dividing cancer cells. However, the effectiveness of these treatm
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Contact: Diana Quattrone
Diana.Quattrone@fccc.edu
215-728-7784
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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