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Tet further revealed: Studies track protein relevant to stem cells, cancer
Date:3/30/2011

r hand, it also activates pluripotency genes," said Zhang.

The team then focused its attention on the Tet1-catalyzed reaction product,5-hydroxymethylcytosine. 5-hydroxymethylcytosine is a modified version of cytosinethe "C" in the four main DNA bases, A, T, G, and C. 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine have been called the fifth and sixth bases of DNA, but since 5-hydroxymethylcytosine was discovered only recently, scientists know little about it.

"Everybody is trying to understand what 5-hydroxymethylcytosine is doing," said Zhang. "Is it an intermediate, or is it an end product? What is its biological function?" Zhang's team mapped the distribution of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine across the genome, offering new insights to its role in development and disease.

"It's the first time we have the whole picture of where this new modification is in embryonic stem cells," said Zhang. "We found that its role in regulating transcription is complicated. It's not simply activating or repressing genesit depends on the context."

Like much of science, the research answers some questions while raising others. "This study is just beginning," said Zhang. Although Tet1 is known to generate 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, there are places where one exists without the other. Further investigation could reveal more about the relationship between the two and whether other enzymes may play a role. In addition, scientists need to examine how Tet1 and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine function in animal models.


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Contact: Les Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-966-9366
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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