Silence of the genes
Figure 1: In Arabidopsis chromatin, the enzymes HDA6 and MET1 convert epigenetic information to make it ‘silent’. Credit: 2011 CYCLOID Inc.
A molecular mechanism by which gene silencing is regulated at the genome-wide level in plants has been uncovered by a research team led by Motoaki Seki of the RIKEN Plant Science Center, Yokohama, Japan. The researchers propose that a similar mechanism may also help to protect plant genomes from the potentially harmful effects of DNA elements, such as transposons, or jumping genes. If left unhindered, transposable elements can cause havoc in the genome, for example by inserting themselves into essential genes, says Seki.
The DNA of eukaryotes -- organisms with nucleated cells -- is packaged in a complex structure called chromatin within chromosomes. Chromatin also contains DNA-binding proteins called histones. When in its open conformation, known as euchromatin, the DNA is accessible to transcription factors, allowing gene expression to proceed. However, when in its highly condensed formheterochromatingene expression is silenced.
The transition from euchromatin to heterochromatin requires chemical modification of both DNA and histones. These so-called epigenetic changes involve the methylation of DNA by enzymes called DNA methyltransferases, and the elimination of epigenetic marks on histones by other enzymes called histone deacetylases. In addition to silencing gene expression, heterochromatin formation may protect against the potentially damaging effects of transposons by blocking their replication.
Seki and his colleagues studied the regulation of heterochromatin formation in Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering related to the mustard plant. Arabidopsis is a widely used model species for studying epigenetic changes in plants, explains Seki.
Uniquely in plants, DNA methylation resulting in heterochromatin formation is triggered by small RNA molecules. This process is known as RNA-directed DNA methylation, and involves the DNA methyltransferase MET1 and the histone deacetylase HDA6 (Fig. 1). However, the overall role of HDA6 in heterochromatin formation remained unclear.
By comparing the RNA transcript profiles of normal and mutant plants lacking functional HDA6, the researchers identified 157 target genes spread across the Arabidopsis genome. In some target genes in the mutant plants they found that DNA methylation was completely lost, allowing these genes to be expressed. They also found that the target specificity of HDA6 was unexpectedly much greater than that of MET1.
In addition to this general role, the researchers propose that HDA6 may regulate transposon silencing through heterochromatin formation in plant gametes. They also express the hope that their research will help illuminate related processes in humans.
More information: To, T.K., et al. Arabidopsis HDA6 regulates locus-directed heterochromatin silencing in cooperation with MET1. PLoS Genetics 7, e1002055 (2011).
Provided by RIKEN
- Discovery of DNA silencing mechanism reveals how plants protect their genome May 12, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Researchers map changing epigenetic modifications that enable transposons to run amok Dec 10, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Scientists clarify a mechanism of epigenetic inheritance Apr 22, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Regulating the nuclear architecture of the cell Dec 10, 2006 | not rated yet | 0
- Roles of DNA packaging protein revealed Feb 12, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Two mutations central to the development of infantile myofibromatosis (IM)—a disorder characterized by multiple tumors involving the skin, bone, and soft tissue—may provide new therapeutic targets, according to researchers ...
Genetics May 24, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Can human genes be patented? That was the question posed by Alan J. Snyder, vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies at Lehigh, and Lee Kaplan, scientific director of cellular and molecular genetics ...
Genetics May 24, 2013 | 4 / 5 (1) | 0
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have led the largest sequencing study of human disease to date, investigating the genetic basis of six autoimmune diseases.
Genetics May 22, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (4) | 0 |
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, in partnership with the University's Brain Tumor Program, have developed a new mouse model of malignant peripheral ...
Genetics May 20, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Northwestern University scientists have shown a gene involved in neurodegenerative disease also plays a critical role in the proper function of the circadian clock.
Genetics May 16, 2013 | 3 / 5 (1) | 1 |
Coenzyme Q10 decreases all cause mortality by half, according to the results of a multicentre randomised double blind trial presented today at Heart Failure 2013 congress. It is the first drug to improve heart failure mortality ...
13 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 5
(HealthDay)—Animals make great companions for senior citizens, but elderly people who always drive with a pet in the car are far more likely to crash than those who never drive with a pet, researchers have ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Heart failure accelerates the aging process and brings on early andropausal syndrome (AS), according to research presented today at the Heart Failure Congress 2013. AS, also referred to as male 'menopause', was four times ...
13 hours ago | not rated yet | 1
Mortality and length of stay are highest in heart failure patients admitted in January, on Friday, and overnight, according to research presented today at the Heart Failure Congress 2013. The analysis of nearly 1 million ...
13 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(AP)—Department of Justice lawyers have again asked a federal appeals court in New York to delay lifting age restrictions and prescription requirements on an emergency contraceptive popularly known as the morning-after ...
13 hours ago | not rated yet | 0