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Molecular glue with new effect
Date:1/31/2008

This release is also available in German.

Ten years ago, researchers at the IMP - a basic research institute in Vienna - discovered a fundamental and amazingly plausible mechanism of cell division. They identified a protein complex, which, as a ring-shaped molecule, slides over the doubled chromosomes and holds precisely these together until the time they again separate. Because of its function as molecular glue, the protein complex was given the name cohesin.

In the working group of Jan-Michael Peters, Senior Scientist at the IMP, the molecule was continually monitored over the last ten years. Now Peters and his colleague, Kerstin Wendt, in cooperation with Katsuhiko Shirahige from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, were able to find evidence of another, also essential function of cohesin. As the researchers report in the online issue of the journal Nature, the molecule acts as a regulator of gene expression, and therefore plays an important role in the reading of genes. The molecule fulfills this function entirely independently of its thus far known activity.

Various inhibiting and promoting elements within the genome affect whether genes can be read in a particular situation and how intensively this process proceeds. Promoters initiate the reading process, whereas enhancers strengthen it, and silencers suppress it. The combination of these factors must be very finely tuned. The areas that are each influenced by the regulators are separated from each other by so-called insulators. It has now been ascertained at the IMP for the first time ever that cohesin is necessary for the function of such insulators.

This discovery not only enriches basic research by contributing to further fundamental knowledge. It should also be of medical interest: a number of rare but serious disorders can be traced back to mutations in cohesin. If the re
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Contact: Heidemarie Hurtl
hurtl@imp.ac.at
43-179-730-3625
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology
Source:Eurekalert

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