Thursday, February 26, 2009

Epigenetics and gene structures   posted by p-ter @ 2/26/2009 07:40:00 PM

Following up on this previous post on epigentics, I thought I'd point to a couple nice examples of using epigenetic information to obtain insight into basic biology.

The first is, I think it's fair to say, a landmark paper identifying a set of over a thousand likely functional non-coding RNAs in mouse cell lines. The approach used here was epigenetic: the authors generated genome-wide maps of chromatin modifications known to mark promoters and transcribed regions, and screened out all the regions of the genome already known to be transcriptionally active. This left them with a set of putatively functional transcripts, which tended to be highly evolutionarily conserved (indicating function), and many of which they confirmed via other means to be novel long non-coding RNAs.

The second is a nice paper demonstrating that one of the same epigentic marks used above to identify transcribed regions is present, in humans, mice, and nemotodes, preferentially on exons (rather than on the entirety of the transcribed region). As this mark is present only in genes that are being transcribed, the authors conclude that it is placed in conjunction with transcription, and likely in conjunction with splicing. They speculate about the role that this mark could play in gene regulation, but in general, this paper raises many more interesting questions than can currently be answered.

Labels: ,