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GEN News Highlights : Oct 26, 2009

Protein Discovered that Silences Genes by Coordinating Heterochromatin Assembly

BAHD1 was found to repress proliferation and survival genes at the embryonic stage, according to PNAS paper.

A protein called BAHD1 is responsible for changing DNA structure and silencing the expression of genes, according to a group of researchers. If genes that should be silenced are reactivated, uncontrolled cell growth may result, leading to tumors.

Better understanding of how genes in cells of our body are regulated by BAHD1 and other factors could lead to cancer therapies aimed at re-silencing inappropriately activated genes or to new prognosis markers.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) by a team of scientists headed by professors Hélène Bierne and Pascale Cossart from the Pasteur Institute in collaboration with colleagues from the National Centre for Scientific Research in France and the French Agricultural Research Institute. The paper is titled “Human BAHD1 promotes heterochromatic gene silencing.”
 
BAHD1 condenses chromatin at specific gene sites, deactivating these genes. BAHD1 represses several proliferation and survival genes, in particular the insulin-like growth factor II gene (IGF2).  This gene is mainly active during embryo development and remain silent in healthy adults. In many human cancers, however, these genes are inappropriately reactivated, causing the explosion of uncoordinated cell growth that is the hallmark of tumor formation.