A study by researchers at Indiana University found similarities between the organization of human chromosomes and archaea for the first time. The discovery could support the use of archaea in research to understand human diseases related to errors in cellular gene expression, such as cancer.
The lead author of the study is Stephen Bell, a professor of biology and chairman of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at the College of Arts and Sciences, IU Bloomington. The study will be published on September 1
The similar accumulation of DNA in humans and archaeal chromosomes is significant because certain genes are activated or deactivated according to their folding.
"Inaccurate bundling or" folding "of DNA can cause the wrong gene to be turned on or off," Bell said. "Studies have shown that turning on or off false genes during cell growth in humans can lead to changes in gene expression that can ultimately be carcinogenic."
Archaea are simple unicellular organisms that make up one of the three life domains on Earth. Although archaea are found in every type of environment, including the human body, they are poorly understood in comparison to the other two domains, bacteria and eukaryotes, which include mammals and humans. They resemble eukaryotes genetically more than bacteria.
The IU study is the first to reveal the organization of DNA in archaeal chromosomes. The key similarity is the way the DNA is organized into clusters – or "discrete compartmentalizations" – by function.
"When we first saw the interaction patterns of the DNA of the Archaea, we were shocked," said Bell. "It looked exactly like what you saw with human DNA."
The study is also the first to describe the protein used to construct the archaeal DNA during cell growth. The researchers called this large protein complex "coalescins" because of its similarity to a protein in eukaryotes called "condensin".
The benefits of using Archaea as a model for studying the organization of DNA during cell growth in humans – and the relationship between this organization and the activation of genes that can cause cancer, is their relative simplicity.
"Human cells are terribly complex, and understanding the rules that govern DNA folding is extremely difficult," said Bell. "The simplicity of Archaea means that they have the potential to be an excellent model for understanding the fundamentally related but much more complicated cellular processes in humans."
The study was conducted with sulfolobus ] a genus of archaea that thrives at extremely high temperatures because its physical resistance facilitates its use in experiments. Sulfolobus are found worldwide, especially in places such as the volcano at Mount St. Helen and the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.
The study of archaeal cells could teach us more about ourselves
Significant Similarities Detected Between Chromosomes of Humans and Archaea (2019, September 19)
retrieved on September 19, 2019
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