New technology detect cellular memory

Feb 24, 2014
New technology detect cellular memory
Chromatin architecture is illustrated. Credit: Water color by Nicolas Bouvier for G. Almouzni

Cells in our body are constantly dividing to maintain our body functions. At each division, our DNA code and a whole machinery of supporting components has to be faithfully duplicated to maintain the cell's memory of its own identity. Researchers at BRIC, University of Copenhagen, have developed a new technology that has revealed the dynamic events of this duplication process and the secrets of cellular memory. The results are published in Nature Cell Biology.

In 2009, two women at BRIC, University of Copenhagen joined forces to develop a new technology that could elucidate the mystery behind cellular . Today, they are celebrating their first big discovery using this technology.

"Our technology can isolate the small molecular building blocks that bind to our DNA strand and organize it into a stringent architecture. Importantly, our technology can follow the dynamic duplication processes in our cells and can therefore reveal the life cycle of these DNA-complexes", says postdoc Constance Alabert who has been leading the laboratory work.

The molecular building blocks that our DNA is wrapped around are called histones and together, the DNA strand and the histones form a stringent structure called . When our cells divide during development and throughout life to maintain our body functions, the DNA code has to be faithfully duplicated and so do the chromatin and its architecture. Chromatin contains crucial information that tells our genes when to be active and when to be silent. For example, information stored in the chromatin silence liver specific genes in heart cells and vice versa. Therefore, the entire chromatin structure has to be duplicated at each cell division to maintain a cell's memory of its own identity.

New technology detect cellular memory
This image shows the detection of new DNA and chromatin (green) in cell nucleus. Credit: Constance Alabert

It is no longer debated that the chromatin structure is crucial to maintain cell identity, but the how remains. As only hypothesis driven approaches has been available to study the dynamic event of chromatin duplication, only few molecular factors have been linked to the process.

"With our new technology, we have identified 100 new molecular components that appear to be involved in the tightly regulated process of chromatin duplication and thereby maintenance of cell memory. Thus, we provide a robust and the first comprehensive resource to address fundamental questions regarding maintenance of cell identity", says associate professor Anja Groth, who is heading the laboratory.

Understanding the fundamental principles of how chromatin is faithfully duplicated is essential to understand how our organism is developed and maintained, and also how diseases such as cancer arise. If cells lose their chromatin memory, they can potentially develop into cancer and form tumours. Such a loss of what is also called 'epigenetic' memory is now known to be involved in almost all cancer types. The next step for the researchers will be to decipher the mode of action of the 100 new chromatin factors.

Explore further: Plant scientists unravel a molecular switch to stimulate leaf growth

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research in cellular memory

Nov 07, 2011

How do fetal cells know what cell types to become? Why do cells in the adult body sometimes forget what they are and develop into cancer cells? These are some of the questions intensively investigated within the research ...

New mechanism for genome unpacking in stem cells

Jan 27, 2014

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet and Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, United Kingdom have identified a novel mechanism that allows pluripotent stem cells to maintain their genome in an unpacked state, and thereby maintain ...

Important discovery for the diagnosis of genetic diseases

Jan 16, 2014

A study conducted by Marie Kmita's team at the IRCM, in collaboration with Josée Dostie at McGill University, shows the importance of the chromatin architecture in controlling the activity of genes, especially those required ...

DNA-altering enzyme is essential for blood cell development

Jun 10, 2013

The expression of specific genes is partially dictated by the way the DNA is packed into chromatin, a tightly packed combination of DNA and proteins known as histones. HDAC3 is a chromatin-modifying enzyme that regulates ...

Recommended for you

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

10 hours ago

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

Body size requires hormones under control

18 hours ago

The proper regulation of body size is of fundamental importance, but the mechanisms that stop growth are still unclear. In a study now published in the scientific journal eLife, a research group from Instit ...

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.