Dundee researchers make gene breakthrough

Sep 16, 2011

Researchers at the University of Dundee have made a significant breakthrough in understanding how human cells decode genes important for cell growth and multiplication.

Dr Joost Zomerdijk and colleagues in the Wellcome Trust Centre for and Expression in the College of at Dundee study the process of transcription, in which cells copy the DNA of into RNA, ultimately leading to the manufacture of proteins.

Transcription must be tightly controlled because otherwise the cells can die or they can grow and multiply without restraint, as seen in certain human diseases including cancer.

Dr Zomerdijk and his team have discovered a previously hidden link within the components of the transcription machinery, the details of which are published in a research paper in the journal Science.

'Three separate transcription machineries exist in . Each is important for transcription of a subset of genes within the cells and each is made up of one specific enzyme and several other groups of proteins that direct and control transcription activity.' said Dr Zomerdijk.

'The transcription machineries of RNA polymerases II and III contain TFIIB or TFIIB-like proteins, which are essential for transcription of their particular subsets of genes. It was surprising that a similar protein had not been identified as a component of the RNA polymerase I transcription machinery, which produces the millions of copies of ribosomal RNAs needed to sustain normal cell growth and multiplication.

'Now, we have discovered that the protein TAF1B, one of a group of proteins that directs the RNA polymerase I enzyme to the ribosomal RNA genes, is similar to TFIIB and Brf1 in structure and function.

'This discovery indicates that the three transcription machineries of human cells, which are likely to have evolved from a , are even more similar than previously realised.

'My lab and I are extremely excited to have discovered this important missing link. Furthermore, this research, funded primarily by the Wellcome Trust, advances our understanding of how normal transcription is maintained and controlled in human cells, which will help us to work out how transcription becomes deregulated in certain diseased cells and, potentially, how we can reverse such deregulation.'

Explore further: Scientists see a natural place for 'rewilded' plants in organic farming

Related Stories

How RNA polymerase II gets the go-ahead for gene transcription

Oct 09, 2009

All cells perform certain basic functions. Each must selectively transcribe parts of the DNA that makes up its genome into RNAs that specify the structure of proteins. The set of proteins synthesized by a cell in turn determines ...

Rewrite the textbooks: Transcription is bidirectional

Jan 25, 2009

Genes that contain instructions for making proteins make up less than 2% of the human genome. Yet, for unknown reasons, most of our genome is transcribed into RNA. The same is true for many other organisms that are easier ...

Recommended for you

Bacterial tenants in fungal quarters

1 hour ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have sequenced the genome of a bacterial symbiont hosted by a mycorrhizal fungus. Analysis of the symbiont's genetic endowment reveals previously unknown ...

First step towards global attack on potato blight

May 28, 2015

European researchers and companies concerned with the potato disease phytophthora will work more closely with parties in other parts of the world. The first move was made during the biennial meeting of the ...

Bacteria study could have agricultural impact

May 28, 2015

Wichita State University microbiology professor Mark Schneegurt and ornithology professor Chris Rogers have discovered that one of North America's most common migratory birds – the Dark-eyed Junco – carries ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.