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How major signaling pathways are wired to our genome gives new insight into disease processes
Date:10/27/2011

FINDINGS: Whitehead Institute scientists have determined that master transcription factors determine the genes regulated by key signaling pathways. In this way, signaling pathways are targeted to genes that are most relevant to each cell type and tailor gene expression to control cell state, growth, differentiation, and death.

RELEVANCE: When signaling pathways operate properly, a cell receives instructions from its neighbors and the environment that tweak gene expression and control the cell's identity and function. But in a number of human diseases, including cancer, these signaling pathways can go awry, increasing cell proliferation and decreasing programmed cell death. By manipulating signaling pathways, scientists may find new ways to treat cancer or to push cells into more specialized states, such as neurons to treat nerve damage or insulin-producing beta cells for diabetes.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (October 27, 2011) Normal development, from fertilized egg to adult organism, depends on each cell receiving proper instructions from its environment. In response to such incoming information, receptors on a cell's surface send signals to the nucleus that tweak gene expression and control cellular function.

However, in a number of human diseases, including cancer, cell signaling pathways can go awry. Without the correct information making its way into the nucleus, gene expression is altered, often with dire consequences.

Although researchers have long understood the importance of these signaling pathways, the mechanism through which they actually affect gene expression had been unclear. In research published this week in the journal Cell, scientists in the lab of Whitehead Institute Member Richard Young describe how a protein acts as a courier, carrying a message from a receptor on the cell's surface to a master transcription factor on the cell's DNA. The courier then tailors expression of genes bound by master tran
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Contact: Nicole Giese
giese@wi.mit.edu
617-258-6851
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Source:Eurekalert

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