Reading histone modifications, an oncoprotein is modified in return
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IMAGE: The light bulb symbolizes TRIM24, a ‘histone reader “‘protein, which binds chromatin. Chromatin association triggers signaling to TRIM24, marked or ‘illuminated’ by a post-translational modification called SUMOylation. view more 

Credit: Srikanth Appikonda

Turning genes on and off is an intricate process involving communication between many different types of proteins that interact with DNA.

These communications can go awry, resulting in conditions like cancer. Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have uncovered an unusual form of cross-talk between proteins that affect gene expression, suggesting new ways of inhibiting metastasis in cancer. The findings are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

TRIM24 is an oncoprotein, meaning it is found at a higher abundance in many types of cancer cells than in healthy cells. Michelle Barton’s lab at MD Anderson studies what this protein does. Previous research has shown that TRIM24 is, among other things, an epigenetic reader. This means that it detects certain chemical modifications of histones – proteins around which DNA is coiled – and induces other proteins to change their behavior in response, resulting in a different pattern of genes being turned on than if the histone had not been modified.

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