Cells attach so-called ‘epigenetic’ signals to their genome to select which part of their genetic information is used. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) have now systematically investigated the interplay between components of an epigenetic network and developed a mathematical model that describes how it operates. The results can be used to predict how cellular gene expression programs respond to drug treatment or other perturbations of the cellular environment.
The study of genetic disease has often centered on the human nuclear genome - the sprawling linear code of about 3.2 billion nucleotides and more than 24,000 genes spread across our 46 chromosomes. In contrast, the other genome that resides within us, the mitochondrial genome, has received less attention. Though our genome dwarfs it in size - a short, circular genome with just over 16,000 nucleotides and exactly 37 genes - the small (but mighty) mitochondria genome is arguably just as important.
When they are not busy attacking us, germs go after each other. But when viruses invade bacteria, it doesn’t always spell disaster for the infected microbes: Sometimes viruses actually carry helpful genes that a bacterium can harness to, say, expand its diet or better attack its own hosts.
Published today in leading publication Science, TGAC’s Director of Science Federica Di Palma, with an international team of scientists, leads ground-breaking study examining the domestication of rabbits. The research presents key findings in the DNA make-up of the common mammal’s brain and nervous system, which determines how wild rabbits were genetically transformed to domestic rabbits. The study predicts a similar diversity of gene variants that occur in humans and triggers our personality traits.
Most women would rather avoid a Pap test that isn’t necessary — and now they can. Recently, the FDA approved the HPV DNA test that can be used as a stand-alone test without a Pap smear. This test, which has been approved for women age 25 and older, gives your gynecologist another tool for diagnosing cervical cancer. The test was approved by the FDA in April, but has been available for several years.
Evolution has harmonized the behavior of humans and all other mammals with fundamental rhythms of life that include the cycle of light and dark experienced each day and with seasonal change. The brain’s circadian clock controls hormone production related to natural patterns of sleep/wake behavior which, when disrupted by experiences such as jet lag or night-shift work, can have adverse health effects. It’s a vital physiological process intrinsic to our mood and alertness, but one that has yet to be fully understood.
Cas enzymes and their associated CRISPR RNAs have hit the biotech headlines recently as tools for genome editing. However, they have a natural function, too: an immunity system for prokaryotes that defends the genome by cutting and pasting foreign DNA into ‘memory’. In a bioinformatics study published in BMC Biology, Eugene Koonin from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, USA, Mart Krupovic from the Institut Pasteur, France, and colleagues identify yet another function of Cas enzymes – the instigators of mobility in a class of transposons, which they name ‘casposons’.
New research intriguingly suggests that DNA, the genetic information carrier for humans and other complex life, might have had a rather humbler origin. In some microbes, a study shows, DNA pulls double duty as a storage site for phosphate. This all-important biomolecule contains phosphorus, a sometimes hard-to-get nutrient.
Researchers analyzing human, fly, and worm genomes have found that these species have a number of key genomic processes in common, reflecting their shared ancestry. The findings, appearing Aug. 28, 2014, in the journal Nature, offer insights into embryonic development, gene regulation and other biological processes vital to understanding human biology and disease.
A revolutionary handheld and battery-powered DNA diagnostic device invented at the University of Otago is poised to become a commonly used field tool for rapidly detecting suspected viruses or bacteria in samples while also determining the level of infection.
Jerry Tuskan of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the DOE JGI talks about poplar trees as models for selective adaptation to an environment. This video complements a study published ahead online August 24, 2014 in Nature Genetics.