Navigation Links
New insights into how genes turn on and off
Date:3/27/2013

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) Researchers at UC Davis and the University of British Columbia have shed new light on methylation, a critical process that helps control how genes are expressed. Working with placentas, the team discovered that 37 percent of the placental genome has regions of lower methylation, called partially methylated domains (PMDs), in which gene expression is turned off. This differs from most human tissues, in which 70 percent of the genome is highly methylated.

While PMDs have been identified in cell lines, this is the first time they have been found in regular human tissue. In addition to enhancing our understanding of epigenetics, this work could influence cancer research and help illuminate how environmental toxins affect fetal development. The paper was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Since it was unraveled more than ten years ago, the human genome has been the focus of both popular interest and intense scientific focus. But the genome doesn't act alone; there are many factors that influence whether genes are turned on or off. One of these is an epigenetic process called methylation, in which a group of carbon and hydrogen atoms (a methyl group) attaches to DNA, adjusting how genes are expressed.

"I like to think of epigenetics as a layer on top of your genetic code," said senior author Janine LaSalle, professor of medical microbiology and immunology. "It's not the DNA sequence but it layers on top of that and methylation is the first layer. Those layers provide a lot of information to the cells on where and when to turn on the genes."

How and when genes are activated (or inactivated) can have a profound impact on human development, cancer and the biological legacy of environmental toxins. Prior to this research, PMDs had only been found in cultured cell lines, which led some scientists to wonder if they existed outside the test tube. This study confirms they exist in placental tissue, a critically important window into fetal development.

"The placenta is the interface between mother and fetus," said LaSalle, who is a researcher affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute. "It's a time capsule from when a lot of important methylation events occurred."

In addition, placental tissue was interesting to study because it has a number of invasive characteristics often associated with cancer. In fact, a number of cancers, such as breast and colon, have widespread PMDs. LaSalle notes that anti-cancer epigenetic therapies that adjust methylation could be refined based on this improved understanding of PMDs.

This work could also enhance our ability to detect genetic defects. Methylation, and other epigenetic data, provides information that cannot be found in the genome alone. For example, the vast majority of cells in the body contain identical genetic code. However, the added information provided by methylation allows scientists to determine where specific DNA came from.

"Methylation patterns are like fingerprints, showing which tissue that DNA is derived from," LaSalle said. "You can't get that information from just the DNA sequence. As a result, methylation studies could be a very rich source for biomarkers."

In the study, PMDs encompassed 37 percent of the placental genome, including 3,815 genes, around 17 percent of all genes. When found in low-methylation regions, these genes were less likely to be transcribed into proteins. Researchers also found that PMDs also contain more highly methylated CpG islands (genomic areas with large numbers of cytosine-guanine pairs), which are often associated with gene transcriptional silencing of promoters.

Because the placental PMDs contained many genes associated with neuronal development, and specifically autism, LaSalle notes that future research could investigate how epigenetics impacts autism genes at birth.

"We are looking for biomarkers that predict neurodevelopmental outcomes," LaSalle said. "Now we have a series of snap shots from a critical period where we think environmental factors are playing a role in the developing brain."


'/>"/>

Contact: Phyllis Brown
phyllis.brown@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9023
University of California - Davis Health System
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. New insights into the development of the heart
2. Peach genome offers insights into breeding strategies for biofuels crops
3. Novel insights into the evolution of protein networks
4. Insights into the immune system, from the fates of individual T cells
5. Study offers new insights on invasive fly threatening US fruit crops
6. Pig brain models provide insights into human cognitive development
7. Misplaced molecules: New insights into the causes of dementia
8. Study provides insights into plant evolution
9. Life experiences put their stamp on the next generation: New insights from epigenetics
10. Discovery of sexual mating in Candida albicans could provide insights into infections
11. New insights into the borderline personality brain
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/30/2017)... , March 30, 2017  On April 6-7, 2017, ... the Genome hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in ... competition will focus on developing health and wellness apps ... Hack the Genome is the first hackathon ... The world,s largest companies in the genomics, tech and ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... The report "Video Surveillance Market ... Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, VMS), and Service (VSaaS, ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market was valued ... to reach USD 75.64 Billion by 2022, at a ... year considered for the study is 2016 and the ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... The report "Gesture Recognition and Touchless Sensing Market by Technology (Touch-based ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to be worth USD ... 2022. Continue Reading ... ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 12, 2017 , ... AMRI, a global contract research, development ... patient outcomes and quality of life, will now be offering its impurity solutions ... new regulatory requirements for all new drug products, including the finalization of ICH ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ComplianceOnline’s Medical ... place on 7th and 8th June 2018 in San Francisco, CA. The Summit brings ... well as several distinguished CEOs, board directors and government officials from around the world ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... 2017 , ... A new study published in Fertility and ... in vitro fertilization (IVF) transfer cycles. The multi-center matched cohort study ... comparing the results from the fresh and frozen transfer cohorts, the authors of ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... Dr. Bob Harman, founder and CEO ... Diego Rotary Club. The event entitled “Stem Cells and Their Regenerative ... attendees. Dr. Harman, DVM, MPVM was joined by two human doctors: Peter B. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: