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UT MD Anderson scientists discover secret life of chromatin
Date:9/1/2011

HOUSTON -- Chromatin - the intertwined histone proteins and DNA that make up chromosomes constantly receives messages that pour in from a cells intricate signaling networks: Turn that gene on. Stifle that one.

But chromatin also talks back, scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center report today in the journal Cell, issuing orders affecting a protein that has nothing to do with chromatin's central role in gene transcription - the first step in protein formation.

"Our findings indicate chromatin might have another life as a direct signaling molecule, that it can signal back to other proteins irrespective of gene transcription," senior author Sharon Dent, Ph.D., professor and chair of MD Anderson's Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis and director of the Center for Cancer Epigenetics.

In a series of yeast experiments, Dent and colleagues show that a signal through a histone protein regulates another protein called Dam1 that is involved in the separation of chromosomes during cell division.

Signaling cascades don't dead-end at DNA

"It's a basic change in our way of thinking about cell signaling that all signals go into the nucleus and dead-end at DNA, that they point to chromatin and stop," Dent said. "Our data show that's not the case. We have a new fundamental aspect of cellular regulation that we need to now explore." DNA is tightly intertwined with histones and assembled in histone/DNA units called nucleosomes along the connecting length of a string of DNA. This structure is often described as being like beads on a string.

Genes are turned on by transcription factors, proteins that attach to the gene's promoter region and order the gene to make an RNA copy of its DNA that can be translated into a protein. Histone proteins regulate access to genes, blocking or facilitating transcription.

Histones and other proteins are modified by the attachment of chemical groups
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Contact: Scott Merville
smerville@mdanderson.org
713-792-0661
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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