Sunday, November 24, 2019

Unraveling Chromatin in Gene Expression

DNA is an incredibly long molecule, with a single cell containing anywhere from two to three meters of DNA in its nucleus. In order to keep this delicate and immense molecule organized and protected, the strands are wrapped around specialized proteins and referred to as chromatin. However, when a gene needs to be expressed, this requires the chromatin matrix to be unraveled and the necessary gene to be exposed. The mechanism for how this occurs is largely unknown, but Beat Fierz's lab believes they have uncovered the first step.

Fierz's lab conducted a study on these "pioneer transcription factors" using yeast as a model organism. In order to study a specific transcription factor Rap1, the team sought to replicate one of the architectural genes within yeast using single-molecule fluorescence as a marker. Rap1 serves to activate a machine within the chromatin and expose relevant DNA so necessary proteins can access the DNA.

This research is interesting because the mechanism for this process is almost entirely unknown to scientists at this moment, and the more we understand about this, the better we will understand gene expression. Additionally, as we learn more about this process, we might be able to identify different illnesses caused by malfunctions in chromatin unwinding, and maybe even finding cures or treatments for them.

Related Link (Understanding Gene Expression):

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