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The TET1 enzyme steers us through fetal development and fights cancer
Date:4/13/2011

To ensure normal fetal development and prevent disease, it is crucial that certain genes are on or off in the right time intervals. Researchers in Professor Kristian Helin's group at BRIC, University of Copenhagen, have now shown how the TET1 enzyme controls the activity of our genes. The results are just published in the journal Nature.

Control of our genes

The complete human genetic code was mapped in 2000. However, it has become clear that the genetic code itself only in part can answer how an individual develops and is protected against disease. What is detrimental is also how our genes are controlled what genes are on or off at certain times. This is in part regulated by specific cellular enzymes that can attach small chemical groups, methyl groups, to our DNA:

-The methyl groups can turn off the gene that lies in a stretch of DNA where it is added. TET1 is another type of enzyme that can fine tune the signals that control gene activity by changing the methyl groups which thereafter are removed, says Kristian Helin.

TET1 controls fetal development

Kristine Williams, Jesper Christensen and Marianne Terndrup Pedersen are the 3 key persons in the Helin laboratory at BRIC contributing with the new results:

-Our most important finding is that TET1 acts like a safe guard and prevents that methyl groups are attached to genes that needs to be active for normal growth and development of our cells. That is crucial for normal fetal development, says PhD student Kristine Williams. Selected genes needs to be active in the stem cells of our body, before the cells are specialized to one of the more than 200 specialized cell types that exist in our body. Other genes need only to be active in specialized cell types as for example liver cells, muscle cells or nerve cells.

When cancer cells develop

The results also contribute to the understanding of what goes wrong when some cel
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Contact: Kristian Helin
kristian.helin@bric.ku.dk
453-532-5668
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert  

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