DNA: How to unravel the tangle

Mar 29, 2013
This image shows a chromosome. Credit: SISSA

A research coordinated by the scientists at SISSA of Trieste has now developed and studied a numeric model of the chromosome that supports the experimental data and provides a hypothesis on the bundle's function.

A chromosome spends most of its life "diluted" in the nuclear . To the untrained eye it may look like a randomly entangled thread, yet claim the opposite: although a chaotic component does exist in the bundle, experimental measurements have identified regions that tend to contain specific genes. Thanks to such measurements, researchers have obtained maps of the chromosome in its diluted form, the one in which the DNA transcription processes occur.

Cristian Micheletti, a physicist of SISSA, the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste, has coordinated an international research team - in which Marco Di Stefano and Angelo Rosa stand out - that has devised an ingenious method which, on one hand, has allowed to verify the already known experimental measures and, on the other, to find data in support of a theory which explains why the DNA bundle is arranged in regions. "Employing the vast amount of publicly available data on , we have identified families of genes co-regulated within a chromosome" explains Micheletti. The co-regulated genes codify "in accord", but how such synchronization occurs is a mystery, since often the genes are located very far from one another on the DNA . "Two main may be considered: either 'messengers' exist that travel back and forth from one gene to the other and coordinate the activity, or the DNA filament folding up inside the tangle brings the genes belonging to the same family physically close."

On the basis of the second assumption Micheletti and his colleagues have used the computer to induce the DNA numeric model to bring the co-regulated genes closer. "The outcome of the simulation has provided a map of chromosome arrangement that is very close to the one obtained through experimentation," explains Micheletti. "Besides, the model has successfully brought closer the belonging to the same family, as we had asked for, in 80% of cases, that is without too much effort, which corroborates the validity of the hypothesis and the effectiveness of the simulation."

The article was chosen by PLOS Computational Biology journal as the cover story for the March issue.

Explore further: Microbes provide insights into evolution of human language

More information: www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003019

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The movement of proteins

Mar 05, 2013

Cristian Micheletti, a scientist of the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste (SISSA), has published in Physics of Life Reviews a review on an innovative instrument for protein analysis, a method for which ...

X chromosome exposed

May 29, 2008

Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, and the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Hinxton, UK, have revealed new insights into how sex chromosomes are regulated. ...

How proteins find their way on chromosomes

Jun 25, 2012

A research team at Uppsala University has managed to clarify how proteins that regulate the activity of genes quickly find their way on chromosomes among millions of possible binding sites. The study also confirms a more ...

Recommended for you

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

8 hours ago

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

10 hours ago

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...

Cell division speed influences gene architecture

Apr 23, 2014

Speed-reading is a technique used to read quickly. It involves visual searching for clues to meaning and skipping non-essential words and/ or sentences. Similarly to humans, biological systems are sometimes ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

CQT
not rated yet Mar 29, 2013
Synchronization through proximity. Avoids the messengers mess.
Where are all these messengers? Great work.

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...