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Scientists reveal structure of gateways to gene control

Scientists at Penn State University will reveal in the 29 March 2007 issue of the journal Nature the first complete high-resolution map of important structures that control how genes are packaged and regulated throughout an entire genome. "For the first time, we are seeing in very high resolution on a genome-wide scale how nucleosomes control the expression of an organism's genes," said B. Franklin Pugh, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and the study's lead investigator.

The map pinpoints the locations of certain key gene-controlling nucleosomes -- spool-like structures that wrap short regions of DNA around a protein core. The research suggests how these nucleosomes, positioned at important transcription-promoter sites throughout the cell's DNA, control whether or not a gene's function can be turned on in a particular cell.

The study's many surprising findings together reveal an intimate relationship between the architecture of nucleosome structures and the underlying DNA sequences they regulate. "We now know exactly where these nucleosomes are positioned on the DNA molecule and which DNA building blocks they have wrapped up under their tight control," Pugh said. Among those building blocks, Pugh and his colleagues revealed the architecture of a critical gateway, controlled by the nucleosome, which must be unlocked before a gene can be transcribed.

The study revealed that almost all genes have the same kind of structure where transcription begins, that this beginning contains a critical gateway for transcription, and that the transcription gateway of each gene almost always is located at the same place on a nucleosome. The researchers also discovered some genes whose pattern is somewhat different from this norm, and these unusual sequences also are reported in the Nature paper. "We previously had a low-resolution idea that these structures all could be roughly in the same position, but now this high-resolution m
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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
28-Mar-2007


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