In ongoing work to identify how genes interact with social environments to impact human health, UCLA researchers have discovered what they describe as a biochemical link between misery and death. In addition, they found a specific genetic variation in some individuals that seems to disconnect that link, rendering them more biologically resilient in the face of adversity.
Perhaps most important to science in the long term, Steven Cole, a member of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and an associate professor of medicine in the division of hematology-oncology, and his colleagues have developed a unique strategy for finding and confirming geneenvironment interactions to more efficiently probe what he calls the "genetic haystack."
The research appears in the current online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using an approach that blends computational, in vivo and epidemiological studies to focus their genetic search, Cole and his colleagues looked at specific groups of proteins known as transcription factors, which regulate gene activity and mediate environmental influences on gene expression by binding to specific DNA sequences. These sequences differ within the population and may affect a gene's sensitivity to environmental activation.
Specifically, Cole analyzed transcription factor binding sequences in a gene called IL6, a molecule that is known to cause inflammation in the body and that contributes to cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration and some types of cancer.
"The IL6 gene controls immune responses but can also serve as 'fertilizer' for cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancer," said Cole, who is also a member of UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute. "Our studies were able to trace a biochemical pathway through which adverse life circumstances fight-or-flight stress responses can activate the IL
|Contact: Mark Wheeler|
University of California - Los Angeles