The Lean, Mean, Gene Protein

histonesGregory Gable (12:00 Micro) is interested in genetics, and how cells can keep cancer from occurring. He found the following article via Science Daily which summarizes work from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine about the role of gene regulation plays in the development of cancer. Here is Gregory’s story:

In a healthy cell, certain genes will be turned on if they are used, and turned off if they are not. If one of the genes that is not needed, the cell can grow uncontrollably, and become cancerous. Researchers have recently discovered that Bre1is the key protein that regulates which genes are turned on in which cells. These proteins are the biggest aid (much like enzymes are) to genes working in the first place, as they are the behind the scenes to make sure operation runs smoothly.

The field of cancer research has now been changed. A greater focus will now be placed on the epigenetic portion of research. The best way to visualize the way epigenetics works is to view it like a stage production. The protein Bre1 is the director who provides offstage cues for the main actors, the genes, to do or not do something. They are the ones who read off the script, RNA. If a single line is missed, catastrophe could be a potential outcome. The show could be ruined – in this case, rampant growth of cells.

Brian Strahl, Ph.D., is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center who is currently in the process of researching these histones. His goal is to figure out precisely what these histones do to contribute to biological regulations and, in turn, to cancer. Bre1 is a histone, and histones are used to wrap out or exclude genetic material in our cells. Ubiquitin is able to help histones in their task by exposing genetic material in the chromatin of cells. These proteins can also be tagged with chemicals that further allow control of genetic replication. Now all that needs to be learned is what these histones do exactly.

There is a Goldilocks range for these proteins. Too much, and the gene doesn’t turn off. Too little, and the gene is never on. If the gene isn’t needed at all, it simply leaves, creating other big issues. Before this day, it wasn’t known whether it promoted or prevented cancer, but now it is known that this protein has its own Goldilocks range. Bre1 protein could be a wonderful target for cancer drugs to help prevent rampant growth. This discovery is very important in showing specifically how these cells function, and how they need to be regulated.

With this new discovery, cell division by genetic replication can be better controlled. Not only is their function now known (and to be researched further), but it is also known that they have their own specifics for functioning as well. Pursuing drugs that target this specific protein should definitely be looked into. Whereas chemotherapy annihilates cells both good and bad, perhaps by using this to target down one specific regulator, life can better be maintained.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on October 17, 2014, in Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Lean, Mean, Gene Protein.

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