Scientists develop new approach to study how genetic variants affect gene expression

January 10, 2014 by Kim Irwin
Yeast cells expressing proteins.

(Medical Xpress)—Each individual carries a unique version of the human genome. Genetic differences can influence traits such as height, weight and vulnerability to disease, but precisely what these genetic variants are and how they exercise their impact is mostly unknown. UCLA researchers have now developed a novel approach to study the ways in which these individual differences affect how strongly certain genes are "expressed"—that is, how they are translated into the proteins that do the actual work in cells.

Using different strains of a yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a single-celled fungus, they studied hundreds of thousands of genetically different yeast cells—orders of magnitude more than previously examined—making their approach statistically powerful and significantly more revealing about how influence .

They also directly studied , an approach that differed from earlier work, which focused on levels of messenger RNA (mRNA), the intermediate molecules that cells use to read genes and translate them into proteins. While mRNAs are easier to measure than proteins, their levels don't always correspond to protein levels.

The two-and-a-half-year study found that the of a typical gene is influenced by many more genetic variants than previously thought and that the effects of genetic differences on mRNA levels corresponded much more closely to the effects on protein expression than seen earlier. Additionally, there is a complex web of variants that affects a large fraction of the proteins in cells.

The work could shed light on the study of disease risk in humans, as genetic variants that influence disease often act by affecting the expression of genes. Clinical applications may eventually flow from a better understanding of the process of genetic variants and protein expression.

The research appears in the Jan. 8 early online edition of the journal Nature.

Explore further: Men and women are different in terms of genetic predispositions, study shows

More information: "Genetics of single-cell protein abundance variation in large yeast populations." Frank W. Albert, Sebastian Treusch, Arthur H. Shockley, Joshua S. Bloom, Leonid Kruglyak. Nature (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nature12904

Related Stories

Men and women are different in terms of genetic predispositions, study shows

September 20, 2012
We are not all the same when it comes to illness. In fact, the risk of developing a disease such as diabetes or heart disease varies from one individual to another. A study led by Emmanouil Dermitzakis, Louis-Jeantet Professor ...

New genetic analysis method holds promise for understanding causes of disease

December 17, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers have developed a new method for identifying rare gene variants, which scientists now believe are more informative for human disease studies than ...

A protein complex for the long haul

November 18, 2013
A multiprotein complex called TREX plays a key role in expression of the genetic information. Moreover, as a new study demonstrates – the longer the gene, the greater the need for TREX function.

Myotonic dystrophy disrupts normal control of gene expression in the heart

January 9, 2014
Disruption of a transcription network controlled by MEF2 in heart tissue of people with myotonic dystrophy type 1 – an inherited form of muscular dystrophy with symptoms starting in early adulthood – affects activity ...

Recommended for you

Scientists provide insight into genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders

July 21, 2017
A study by scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is providing insight into the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this research, the first mouse model of a mutation ...

Scientists identify new way cells turn off genes

July 19, 2017
Cells have more than one trick up their sleeve for controlling certain genes that regulate fetal growth and development.

South Asian genomes could be boon for disease research, scientists say

July 18, 2017
The Indian subcontinent's massive population is nearing 1.5 billion according to recent accounts. But that population is far from monolithic; it's made up of nearly 5,000 well-defined sub-groups, making the region one of ...

Mutant yeast reveals details of the aberrant genomic machinery of children's high-grade gliomas

July 18, 2017
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital biologists have used engineered yeast cells to discover how a mutation that is frequently found in pediatric brain tumor high-grade glioma triggers a cascade of genomic malfunctions.

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Newly identified genetic marker may help detect high-risk flu patients

July 17, 2017
Researchers have discovered an inherited genetic variation that may help identify patients at elevated risk for severe, potentially fatal influenza infections. The scientists have also linked the gene variant to a mechanism ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.