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Histones are everywhere

Just the other day I was talking to a researcher on the phone whose work had unexpectedly intersected with nucleosome remodeling. I get the feeling it?s not an uncommon occurrence. I?ve enjoyed following the linkurl:explosion of research;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23392/ on this topic in the past decade, in part because the analogies are irresistible. As the now pat intro to numerous papers on the subject says, with the sequence of the human genome at hand, scientists are lo

By | May 11, 2006

Just the other day I was talking to a researcher on the phone whose work had unexpectedly intersected with nucleosome remodeling. I get the feeling it?s not an uncommon occurrence. I?ve enjoyed following the linkurl:explosion of research;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23392/ on this topic in the past decade, in part because the analogies are irresistible. As the now pat intro to numerous papers on the subject says, with the sequence of the human genome at hand, scientists are looking for all of the rules to how and when it?s read. And they?ve been looking to the instructions that might be held in chromatin. In linkurl:today?s __Nature__,;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v441/n7090/full/441143a.html __Nat Neuroscience__ editor Jane Qiu compares patterns of DNA methylation and post translational histone modifications to the key signatures, phrasing, and other instructions that would accompany the musical score that is the genomic symphony. We?ve heard it called a code, a semiotic system like the internationally recognized red, green, and yellow for traffic lights, a notation to gene activation like multicolored highlighting in a textbook, even a language as in David Allis? highly cited review that popularized the histone code hypothesis. Of course whether histone modifications in particular carry information in the form of a code, is still an linkurl:open debate,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23393/ these marks are definitely related to the gene expression programs and genome management underlying development and differentiation. But whether they act in a combinatorial way elegant enough to be called a code is still a contentious statement. Ollie Rando, who has published evidence against histone modifications (acetylation in particular) acting as a code said he?s been working on an analogy ever since he debated the code with Bryan Turner at AACR last month. Evidence has often pointed to the same kinds of histone modifications having opposite effects, and Rando?s work has shown that some simply act in an additive way. Sure it?s a language, he said, but it?s like Frankestein?s monster moaning and grunting. You?ll get the meaning, but it?s still pretty rudimentary ? arbitrary even.

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