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International team cracks mammalian gene control code
Date:4/20/2009

An international consortium of scientists, including researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ), have probed further into the human genome than ever before.

They have discovered how genes are controlled in mammals, as well as the tiniest genetic element ever found.

Their discoveries will be published in three milestone papers in leading journal Nature Genetics.

The research was coordinated by the RIKEN Yokohama Omics Science Center in Japan as part of the FANTOM4 consortium, with researchers from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience playing major roles in two of the papers.

PhD student Ryan Taft led one paper, on which Professor John Mattick was the senior author, while Associate Professor Sean Grimmond was a senior author on another paper led by Dr Geoff Faulkner.

"FANTOM4 has shown that instead of having one or a few 'master regulator' genes that control growth and development, there is a sophisticated network of regulatory elements that subtly influence the ways in which genes are expressed in different cells in the body," Professor John Mattick said.

This information will be very useful to medical and biological researchers, according to Associate Professor Sean Grimmond.

"We can use it to discover how cells transform from rapidly-growing 'blank slate' cells to mature cells with a specific function. This knowledge will help us determine, for example, why some cells turn cancerous, or how to control stem cells for use in regenerative medicine."

One of the papers describes the discovery of tiny RNAs, the smallest genetic elements yet known, which are linked to the expression of individual genes. Tiny RNAs are 18 nucleotides long, 100 times smaller than an average gene.

"Researchers had previously noticed small lengths of RNA in the genome, but thought that they were degraded segments of larger genetic elements," Mr Taft said.

"We found that th
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Contact: Bronwyn Adams
b.adams@imb.uq.edu.au
61-733-462-134
Research Australia
Source:Eurekalert

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