The work, published in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal Science, could lead to new approaches for developing medications and assessing a person's genetic risk to this and other conditions, says Richard Young, a scientist at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and lead researcher on the project.
Key to understanding the relationship between genes and disease are gene regulators called transcription factors, proteins that bind to specific areas of the genome and act to switch genes on and off. To discover how a specific transcription factor might contribute to a particular disease, scientists must locate each point in the genome where the transcription factor adheres and identify the individual genes it controls. Using conventional tools, it might take a single scientist a lifetime to do this for just one transcription factor. Yet humans have over 1,000 transcription factors and dozens of these have been linked to diseases.
"We developed an efficient gene-scanning technology so we could map genome binding sites for many transcription factors in a human organ," says Duncan Odom, a postdoctoral fellow at Whitehead Institute and lead author of the paper. "This allows us to identify the sets of genes where transcription factors act as switches and to learn how defects in these switches might cause disease".
In October 2002, a team led by Young, who also is a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported in Science on a technology used to identify how over 100 transcription factors were associated
Contact: David Cameron
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research