Random Behavior of Genes Found in Surprising Study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Researchers have discovered that some genes behave in a random fashion and without a clue as to what other genes are doing. Until now, the belief was that genes worked together to form protein structures; doing so in an orderly manner. Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine say some genes "are so out of touch with each other that we dubbed them "clueless" genes".

Robert Singer, Ph.D., professor and co-chair of anatomy and structural biology, professor of cell biology and of neuroscience at Einstein and senior author of the study says, "The expression of the genes that make the protein subunits of ribosomes and other multi-protein complexes is not at all coordinated or co-regulated."

Gene Discovery Changes the way Scientists Think

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The discovery changes the way scientists think, because no one knew about the entire class of "clueless “genes". Saumil Gandhi, an M.D. /Ph.D. candidate at Albert Einstein College of Medicine explains in an interview, that genes read cells and execute functions imbedded in DNA – he likens it to a thermostat that adjusts to temperature in the room.

The researchers looked first at genes that are very coordinated and transcribe when they receive a signal. The scientists then looked at a group of "housekeeping genes" that are always "on". They found that housekeeping genes randomly make RNA and DNA molecules without knowing what other genes in a cell are doing. Dr. Gandhi says, "it’s a fundamentally different way of thinking about how a cell operates.:

He says now there is a method to measure the level of coordination among genes inside many cells. The new discovery could be applied to cancer treatment and stem cell biology. The finding that some genes are “clueless” has a direct impact on understanding how cells respond to chemotherapy. The new research shows some genes make protein structures randomly, contrary to what scientists previously knew.

Nature Structural & Molecular Biolog (2010 doi:10.1038/nsmb.1934)

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