'Icebreaker' protein opens genome for t cell development, Penn researchers find
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IMAGE: TCF-1 is like an icebreaker ship that initially opens the ice (condensed, closed chromatin) and keeps a path available for other ships (other transcription factors that work in later stages… view more 

Credit: Stacie Leigh Bumgarner

PHILADELPHIA – Almost all cells in the human body have identical DNA sequences, yet there are 200-plus cell types with different sizes, shapes, and chemical compositions. Determining what parts of the genome are read to make protein and which are silenced is orchestrated by proteins called transcription factors. These regulate the availability of distinct stretches of DNA to be expressed as opposed to others that remain buried in tightly coiled structures called chromatin.

Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, describe this week in Immunity the role of a transcription factor called TCF-1 in targeting the condensed chromatin and regulating the availability of genome sequences in T-cell development. The new connection between TCF-1 and chromatin will aid in developing new therapies using epigenetic drugs to alter T-cell fate in cancer, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases.

Senior author Golnaz Vahedi, PhD, an assistant professor of Genetics, brings her multidisciplinary training in computational biology, epigenetics, and immunology to bear

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