Duke Study Finds More Genes May Be Affected By Toxic Cadmium

carried to the site of protein synthesis.

After repeating the experiments to eliminate false positives, Liao made complementary DNA (cDNA) copies of portions of those mRNAs. She did so because DNAs are easier to work with in the laboratory than RNAs, Freedman said.

Using those links of cDNA, known as expressed sequence tags (ESTs), the authors were able to determine which genes produced which mRNAs by matching the ESTs with available genomic C. elegans sequence data. That record of efforts to sequence all of the roundworm's genes is available on the World Wide Web at www.sanger.ac.uk/Projects/C_elegans/.

Since they had collected mRNAs from both cadmium exposed and unexposed roundworms, the authors were able to compare EST data from those two groups to pinpoint genes that were switched on by the toxic metal.

They also used an additional on-line website www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/BLAST/ to determine which sequences of amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- would be produced from their mRNA sequences, and how those compared with known proteins.

These procedures identified 31 "unique C. elegans gene products whose levels of expression (mRNA production) increased following cadmium exposure," the pair wrote in their Journal of Biological Chemistry report. Twenty-two of these mRNAs were found to encode "novel" proteins never before identified, they added.

The genes expressing those proteins are also novel in the sense that their ties to cadmium or any other purpose was previously unknown, even though all have been sequenced in the C. elegans genome project, Freedman said in his interview.

In the article, Freedman hypothesized why some of the additional genes might respond to cadmium exposure, but learning more will take more research, he said. "All we've done at this point is

Contact: Monte Basgall
Duke University Medical Center

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