DNA Bends Control Gene Activation

Genomic structures called i-motifs signal DNA activation, while hairpin loops signal gene suppression.  

kerry grens
Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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Mar 25, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, STEPHEN COLEBOURNE

Bends in the genome called i-motifs, which look like a “W” folded in the middle along the Y axis, lead to the upregulation of a gene, while hairpins in the same location of a gene cause suppression, researchers reported recently at the American Chemical Society meeting in Dallas, Texas. “It’s the sort of evidence we’ve been waiting for” to help confirm the role of i-motifs, John Brazier of the University of Reading who was not part of the study, told Chemical & Engineering News.

In an associated paper, researchers led by Laurence Hurley at Arizona State University showed that when they stabilized the i-motif of the promoter region in a gene called BLC2, protein expression went up. When they maintained this same region of the gene in a hairpin formation, protein expression dropped. “For the first time we propose that the i-motif acts as a molecular switch...

The findings have practical implications. BLC2 is over-expressed in cancer cells; trapping the gene’s promoter in the hairpin shape using a small molecule made cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy.

Edwin Lewis of Mississippi State University who was not involved in the research told Chemical & Engineering News that the results tell “us something we didn’t know before about the regulation of gene expression.”

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DNA Bends Control Gene Activation

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