How Specialized Enzymes Remodel Chromatin to Make Genes More or Less Accessible to Gene Expression Machinery

An international team of biologists has discovered how specialized enzymes remodel the extremely condensed genetic material (chromatin) in the nucleus of cells in order to control which genes can be used. The scientists described this discovery on January 27, 2016 in an article published online in Nature. The article is titled “Genome-Wide Nucleosome Specificity and Function of Chromatin Remodellers in ES Cells.” It was known that the DNA in cells is wrapped around proteins in structures called nucleosomes that resemble beads on a string. These structures allow the genetic material to be folded and compacted into a structure called chromatin. "We knew that the compaction into chromatin makes genes inaccessible to the cellular machinery necessary for gene expression, and we also knew that enzymes opened up the chromatin to specify which genes were accessible and could be expressed in a cell, but until now, we didn't know the mechanism by which these enzymes functioned," said B. Franklin Pugh, Ph.D., Evan Pugh Professor, Willaman Chair in Molecular Biology, and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State University and one of the two corresponding authors for the paper, along with Matthieu Gérard. Ph.D., of the University of Paris-Sud in France. The discovery was achieved by an international collaboration of scientists from the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission in France (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives), the National Center for Scientific Research in France (Centre national de la recherche scientifique), the University of Paris-Sud in France, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou in China, and Penn State University in the United States.
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