A team of Florida State University (FSU) researchers, together with colleagues from other institutions, has unlocked a decades-old mystery about how a critical cellular process is regulated and what that could mean for the future study of genetics. In cells, DNA and its associated material replicate at regular intervals, a process essential to all living organisms. This contributes to everything from how the body responds to disease to hair color. DNA replication was identified in the late 1950s, but since then researchers across the globe have come up short trying to understand exactly how this process was regulated. Now, they believe they know. FSU’s David Gilbert, PhD, the J. Herbert Taylor Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology, and doctoral student Jiao Sima are the senior and first authors, respectively, on a report published online on December 27, 2018 in Cell that showed there are specific points along the DNA molecule that control replication. The article is titled “Identifying cis Elements for Spatiotemporal Control of Mammalian DNA Replication.” "It's been quite a mystery," Dr. Gilbert said. "Replication seemed resilient to everything we tried to do to perturb it. We've described it in detail, shown it changes in different cell types and that it is disrupted in disease. But until now, we couldn't find that final piece, the control elements or the DNA sequences that control it." Notably, Dr. Gilbert's professorship is in honor of a former FSU professor named J. Herbert Taylor. In the late 1950s, Professor Taylor demonstrated how different segments of chromosomes duplicate and published more than 100 papers on chromosome structure and replication. Roughly 60 years later, Dr. Gilbert determined how replication was regulated.
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