New Haven, Conn. Using new DNA chip technology, Yale researchers have identified virtually all of the gene targets of some key proteins, known as transcription factors.
Transcription factors tell a cell whether it will be, for example, a muscle cell or a nerve cell. They determine the fate of a cell by "turning on" a particular assortment of genes within the cell and they can control cell proliferation.
The transcription factors studied by the Yale team control cell proliferation in yeast. Previously, only a few targets had been identified. The new technology developed by the Yale team allow them to find all of the targets simultaneously using DNA chip technology. DNA chips are glass microscope slides that are spotted with very small amounts of DNA. All of the genes, which are composed of DNA, that are found in the yeast genome are placed in their own individual spot on a single slide. By using these yeast DNA chips, researchers are able to identify all of the genes that a transcription factor will bind.
"Our method takes advantage of genomics and all of the targets in one simple experiment," said Michael Snyder, professor and chairman of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and professor in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale. "Then you have a good idea of how a transcription factor turns cells into what they normally do. The transcription factors we tested govern the cell cycle. They tell cells its time to enter a new cell cycle, when its time to make a new cell."
In the study published in this weeks issue of the journal, Nature, Yale researchers in collaboration with researchers at Stanford University identified almost 250 genes that were bound by these key transcription factors. Many of these genes are known to play a role in the start of a new cell cycle or in the making of a new cell. But many genes with unknown functions were also identified.