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How cells change gears: New insights published in Nature Genetics
Date:4/20/2009

Bioinformatics researchers from UC San Diego just moved closer to unlocking the mystery of how human cells switch from "proliferation mode" to "specialization mode." This computational biology work from the Jacobs School of Engineering's bioengineering department could lead to new ideas for curbing unwanted cell proliferationincluding some cancers. This research, published in Nature Genetics, could also improve our understanding of how organs and other complex tissues develop.

The UC San Diego bioengineers are part of a Japan-based global research consortium, the Genome Network Project, which generated one of the first close-to-comprehensive looks at a human cell's entire network of proteins called "transcription factors." Each human cell contains approximately 2,000 transcription factors, which are proteins that bind to specific locations on the cell's DNA. Once bound to DNA, transcription factors work to either encourage or prevent "transcription"the process by which messenger RNA is generated from DNA. These messenger RNA strands then travel to cellular factories called ribosomes which churn out proteins based on the specifications of the mRNA.

"Transcription is one of the most important events in the cellit determines cell morphology and cell function," said Timothy Ravasi, a UC San Diego research scientist from the bioengineering department and author on the new Nature Genetics paper.

Researchers have long understood that most transcription factors in human cells do not work alone, but studying the entire network of transcription factors within a cell has been difficult until now. In the new study, the researchers used a series of computational and integrative biology approaches in order to look at how the activity of the network of transcription factors in a myeloid leukemia cell line changes over time.

"Leukemia" refers to a variety of pathologies involving uncontrolled proliferation of white blood cel
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Contact: Daniel Kane
dbkane@ucsd.edu
858-534-3262
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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