When a chemical tag makes the difference in cell fate and gene expression
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Scientists at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, have uncovered the role of special chemical ‘tags’ in controlling vital genes involved in early mammalian development, publishing their findings in the journal Nature Genetics on 17th September. Their work, which studied the changes in epigenetics, genome architecture, accessibility and gene expression, unravels how cells can make quick cell fate decisions while brings new understanding of cancer development and progression.

Led by ICREA research professors at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, Luciano Di Croce and Marc A. Marti-Renom, the study focused on a set of genes with what’s known as bivalent promoters – two-way genetic ‘control switches’ that are poised either to turn on in early development and rapidly drive high levels of gene activity, or to switch off and shut down the gene completely. These genes play essential roles in early development where cells have to make quick decisions about which fate to adopt, so the poised switches allow them to quickly flip into the correct pattern of gene activity.

This two-way gene switches mechanism is a fine tuning control system which allows cells to quickly activate or inhibit genes during early embryonic development but it can be

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