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Scientists identify key roadblock to gene expression
Date:5/8/2008

A team of scientists has provided, for the first time, a detailed map of how the building blocks of chromosomes, the cellular structures that contain genes, are organized in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The work identifies a critical stop sign for transcription, the first step in gene expression, and has implications for understanding how the AIDS virus regulates its genes. The findings will be published in the 15 May 2008 issue of the journal Nature.

The scientists found that nucleosomes--chromosomal building blocks made up of proteins around which DNA is coiled--occur at precise locations along genes that are actively undergoing transcription. They also showed that RNA polymerase--the enzyme that reads genes as the first step in making proteins--is stopped at the first nucleosome, where it remains idle until it is directed to continue moving forward. "This discovery is important because nucleosomes are barriers to transcription and we now are seeing the impact of nucleosome organization on RNA polymerase," said lead investigator B. Franklin Pugh, professor and Willaman Chair in Molecular Biology at Penn State University.

Using state-of-the-art ChIP-sequencing, a genome-mapping tool provided by collaborator Stephen S. Schuster, Penn State professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and computational predictions developed by collaborators Ilya Ioshikhes, an assistant professor at Ohio State University, and Istvan Albert, a research assistant professor of bioinformatics at Penn State, the scientists precisely mapped the locations of hundreds of thousands of nucleosomes. The scientists then compared these maps to the team's earlier maps of the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, revealing that evolution has organized nucleosomes differently in simple life forms compared to more complex organisms like the fruit fly.

In yeast, a nucleosome sits on top of the transcription start site, so RNA polymerase must contend
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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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