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Shaking Up Genome Regulation by Considering Oil/Water-Like Interactions

06:58 EDT 22 Jun 2017 | Genetic Engineering News

In the mixed-up world of gene silencing, it’s not exactly clear why some genomic regions are hard to access. These regions, it has been suggested, may simply be too tightly packed to permit the passage of regulatory proteins needed for gene expression. Tightly packed DNA, however, doesn’t always behave as expected. For example, heterochromatin has been known to exclude small proteins while admitting large ones. Such anomalous behavior naturally attracts the attention of scientists. Eager to resolve the problems accompanying the compaction explanation for the silencing of heterochromatin, scientists based at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory decided to consider an alternative mechanism. It turns out to be the same one that accounts for the separation of oil and water. A Berkeley Lab team led by Gary Karpen, a senior scientist specializing in biological systems and engineering, uncovered evidence that heterochromatin organizes large parts of the genome into specific ...

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