Remote control for human growth hormone gene expression

(Philadelphia, PA) - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine recently discovered a novel mechanism that works over an extensive genomic distance and controls the expression of human growth hormone (hGH) in the pituitary gland. This mechanism involves a newly discovered set of "non-coding RNAs" expressed in the vicinity of the hGH gene.

By examining the relationship between these non-coding RNAs and the hGH gene, researchers hope to understand how these remote regions impact hGH gene expression and dysfunction. Such insight may aid researchers in the development of therapeutics for growth hormone defects and lead to a greater understanding of the causes of other genetic disorders.

The human genome is comprised of both non-coding DNA and coding regions, or genes. While researchers once believed that only genes were transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA), investigators have recently discovered that non-coding DNA is copied into mRNA as well. Unlike coding mRNAs, which are translated into functional proteins and peptides, the function of most non-coding RNAs is unclear. Although non-coding RNAs fail to produce functional proteins, researchers believe that in some cases these RNAs may control gene expression.

Using a genetically modified mouse model, Nancy E. Cooke, MD, Stephen A. Liebhaber, MD, Professors of Genetics and Medicine, and colleagues, demonstrated a critical role of two non-coding regions on the activation of the hGH gene. They described their recent findings in the August issue of Molecular Cell.

Synthesized by the pituitary gland, human growth hormone activates growth and cell reproduction. In addition to serving as a major contributor to height growth during childhood, hGH plays a role in strengthening bones and increasing muscle mass throughout life. While mutations to the hGH gene often lead to abnormal growth in children and adults, these mutations have provided researchers with key cl

Contact: Karen Kreeger
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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