Looped Genome Structures Considered Key to Gene Expression Are Surprisingly Fleeting; New Results from MIT Suggest Theories of How Loops Control Gene Expression May Need to Be Revised

In human chromosomes, DNA is coated by proteins to form an exceedingly long beaded string. This “string” is folded into numerous loops, which are believed to help cells control gene expression and facilitate DNA repair, among other functions. A new study from MIT suggests that these loops are very dynamic and shorter-lived than previously thought. In the new study, the researchers were able to monitor the movement of one stretch of the genome in a living cell for about two hours. They saw that this stretch was fully looped for only 3 to 6 percent of the time (see below), with the loop lasting for only about 10 to 30 minutes. The findings suggest that scientists’ current understanding of how loops influence gene expression may need to be revised, the researchers say. “Many models in the field have been these pictures of static loops regulating these processes. What our new paper shows is that this picture is not really correct,” says Anders Sejr Hansen, PhD, the Underwood-Prescott Career Development Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT. “We suggest that the functional state of these domains is much more dynamic.”

Login Or Register To Read Full Story