Scientists at University of California have gained valuable insights about the differentiation of embryonic stem cells of fruit fly , a finding that may eventually accelerate current research on stem cells and cancer.
The research is a joint effort by Dr. Frank Sauer (UCR Biochemistry Professor), Dr. Elisabeth Kremmer (Institut für Molekulare Immunologie, Munich) and other researchers from University of California. The results of the research titled, Noncoding RNAs of Trithorax Response Elements Recruit Drosophila Ash1 to Ultrabithrorax appears in the Science journal.
The research unravels how certain epigenetic activators, in this case Ash1 bind to the target DNA molecule to facilitate the activation of certain genes that play a crucial role in determination of cell function. The mechanism of recognition of a specific DNA sequence (target gene) by the epigenetic factors followed by binding and expression has remained poorly understood as of now.
The gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) consists of Trithorax-reponse elements (TREs) that form the main target for binding of Ash1, the epigenetic activator. Subsequently, the non-coding RNA produced and retained at the TREs result in activation of the Ubx gene. The function of cells can be modified by transgenic transcription of non-coding TRE RNA.
Non-coding RNAs have been regarded to be inert, having a limited role in inducing expression or activation of genes followed by protein expression. The present research has highlighted that non-coding RNAs can have a wide range of functions than what is foreseen at the moment. Genetic manipulation techniques can be developed to activate rather than silence the so-called genetic junk to determine fate of a specific cell.
With our improved understanding of such complex mechanisms and sustained research efforts, we might someday be able to cure certain diseases such as cancer that are thought incurable.