Genetics

  • 3D Structure of DNA Forms Defined Room for Dissociated lncRNAs to Activate Gene Expression

    The long non-coding RNA called A-ROD functions within a loop to recruit proteins to the DKK1 gene.  © E. Ntini / Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics

    Enhancers are regulatory regions of the DNA, giving rise to “long non-coding RNAs” (lncRNAs), which are known as crucial regulators of gene expression. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin now have shown that a lncRNA called A-ROD is only functional the moment it is released from chromatin into the nucleoplasm. In the current issue of Nature Communications the researchers demonstrate that the regulatory interaction requires dissociation of A-ROD from chromatin, with target specificity ensured within the pre-established chromosomal proximity. This can heavily influence our understanding of dynamic regulation of gene expression in biological processes.

  • A new study shows how dangerous germs travel as stowaways from one continent to another

    Using a special culture, germs from smears can be recognized and identified. Photo: WWU/H. Dornhege

    As scientists from Münster University, in collaboration with the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, have now demonstrated, toilets at airports are also a “transfer point” for germs. These include germs against which traditional antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial infections are not, or only partially, effective.
    Münster (mfm/sm) – Everyday life at an airport: there’s still time before the jet taking passengers to faraway countries takes off – time enough for a quick visit to the toilet. What awaits passengers there is not always a pleasant sight. However, what they don’t see can be much worse. As scientists from Münster University, in collaboration with the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, have now demonstrated, toilets at airports are also a “transfer point” for germs.

  • A Pair of RNA Scissors with Many Functions

    Photo: Dominik Kopp

    Arming CRISPR/Cas systems with an enzyme that also controls the translation of genetic information into protein. CRISPR/Cas systems are known as promising “gene scissors” in the genome editing of plants, animals, and microorganisms by targeting specific regions in their DNA – and perhaps they can even be used to correct genetic defects.

  • Call for Abstracts – The Molecular Basis of Life

    GBM Conference "Molecular Basis of Life"

    The international fall conference of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) will take place from Sunday, September 24th to Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

    The (German) Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie, GBM) is the association of about 5300 scientists working in the field of Molecular Life Sciences. Most members of the GBM are German scientists from universities, industry and other research institutions, covering the entire spectrum of basic and applied Molecular Life Sciences.
    The aim of the GBM is to promote basic and applied research as well as education in the fields of biochemistry, molecular biology and molecular medicine.

  • CeBIT 2017: Analysis software for neural networks – Watching computers think

    Fraunhofer HHI’s analysis software uses algorithms to visualize complex learning processes (schematic diagram). © Fraunhofer HHI

    Neural networks are commonly used today to analyze complex data – for instance to find clues to illnesses in genetic information. Ultimately, though, no one knows how these networks actually work exactly. That is why Fraunhofer researchers developed software that enables them to look into these black boxes and analyze how they function. The researchers will present their software at CeBIT in Hannover from March 20 to 24, 2017 (Hall 6, Booth B 36).

  • Cebit 2017: Computational Biologists Predict Antibiotic Resistances Using Biotech

    Time-consuming: Bacteria have to be cultivated in nutrient media in order to detect resistances. Special tests and gene data are designed to provide faster and more reliable results.  Curetis

    Every year, some 25,000 people die in the European Union from antibiotic-resistant, hard to treat bacteria. Although there are diagnostic methods in place to recognize such resistances in advance, these are typically very time-consuming. Researchers from the Center for Bioinformatics at Saarland University, in cooperation with the molecular diagnostics company Curetis, are developing techniques to uncover these dangerous resistances a lot faster. Their secret weapons: a comprehensive gene database, and powerful algorithms. The researchers will be presenting their rapid test procedures, and their outlook for the future, at Stand E28 at the Cebit computer trade show in Hannover, Germany.

  • Computers Made of Genetic Material? - ZDR researchers conduct electricity using DNA-based nanowires

    Scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf conducted electricity through DNA-based nanowires by placing gold-plated nanoparticles on them.

    Tinier than the AIDS virus – that is currently the circumference of the smallest transistors. The industry has shrunk the central elements of their computer chips to fourteen nanometers in the last sixty years. Conventional methods, however, are hitting physical boundaries. An alternative could be the self-organization of complex components from molecules and atoms. Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and Paderborn University have now made an important advance: the physicists conducted a current through gold-plated nanowires, which independently assembled themselves from single DNA strands. Their results have been published in the scientific journal Langmuir.

  • Cortisol excess hits natural DNA process and mental health hard

    Camilla Glad. Photo: Rickard Dahlén

    High concentrations of the stress hormone, Cortisol, in the body affect important DNA processes and increase the risk of long-term psychological consequences. These relationships are evident in a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy on patients with Cushing’s Syndrome, but the findings also open the door for new treatment strategies for other stress-related conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. “If these results can be verified and repeated in other studies, they would have significance for future possibilities for treating stress-induced psychological consequences,” says Camilla Glad, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition.

  • Data Security in Medical Studies: IT Researchers Break Anonymity of Gene Databases

    DNA string.

    DNA profiles can reveal a number of details about individuals. There are laws in place that regulate the trade of gene data. However, these laws do not apply to an equally relevant type of genetic data, so-called microRNAs. This means that anonymity needs to be strictly maintained in microRNA studies as well. Researchers from the Research Center for IT Security, CISPA, have now been able to show that a few microRNA molecules are sufficient to draw conclusions about study participants. The computer scientists will be presenting their means of attack, and appropriate countermeasures, at the Cebit computer fair in Hannover (Hall 6, Stand C47).

  • Decoding the Regulation of Cell Survival - A Major Step Towards Preventing Neurons from Dying

    Neurite outgrowth assay of neurons expressing GFP. The first and last time point (0 min, 50 min) are pseudocolored in magenta and cyan, respectively. Busskamp Lab CRTD

    An interdisciplinary and international research group led by Dr. Volker Busskamp from the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden at the TU Dresden (CRTD) has decoded the regulatory impact on neuronal survival of a small non-coding RNA molecule, so-called miRNA, at the highest resolution to date. This deciphering of gene regulation primes applications for strengthening neurons in order to protect them from neurodegenerative diseases. The extensive systems biology methods used here could become a new standard for the way miRNAs are researched.

  • Designer Cells: Artificial Enzyme can Activate a Gene Switch

    Artificial metalloenzyme penetrates a mammalian cell, where it accelerates the release of a hormone. This activates a gene switch which then leads to the production of a fluorescent indicator protein. University of Basel, Yasunori Okamoto

    Complex reaction cascades can be triggered in artificial molecular systems: Swiss scientists have constructed an enzyme than can penetrate a mammalian cell and accelerate the release of a hormone. This then activates a gene switch that triggers the creation of a fluorescent protein. The findings were reported by researchers from the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering, led by the University of Basel and ETH Zurich.

  • Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation

    With the atria and major vessels removed, all four valves are clearly visible. Betts, J. Gordon (2013). Anatomy & physiology. pp. 787–846

    Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland have identified a key regulator gene for the formation of cardiac valves - a process crucial to normal embryonic heart development. These results are published in the journal Cell Reports today.

    The heart is the first functional organ that develops in vertebrate embryos. In humans, it starts to beat four weeks into the pregnancy. Unfortunately, congenital heart disease is one of the most common developmental abnormalities and the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths. These heart defects often involve malformations of cardiac valves, which are required to regulate the pressure and flow of blood in the cardiac chambers.

  • DNA structure influences the function of transcription factors

    Spatial arrangement of the binding site and neighbouring segments modulates gene activity

  • Enough is enough - stem cell factor Nanog knows when to slow down

    STILT generates simulated protein expression of dividing cells based on measured data and a dynamic model. Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

    The transcription factor Nanog plays a crucial role in the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells. Previously unclear was how its protein abundance is regulated in the cells. Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich, working in collaboration with colleagues from ETH Zürich, now report in ‘Cell Systems’ that the more Nanog there is on hand, the less reproduction there is. Every stem cell researcher knows the protein Nanog* because it ensures that these all-rounders continue to renew. A controversial debate revolved around how the quantity of Nanog protein in the cell is regulated.

  • Faster diagnosis of sepsis pathogens

    High-throughput sequencing of sepsis pathogens at Fraunhofer IGB. Fraunhofer IGB

    Microbial pathogens can be diagnosed unambiguously and within just 24 hours by means of high-throughput sequencing of their genetic makeup and special bioinformatics evaluation algorithms. Fraunhofer researchers have validated this in a clinical study with sepsis patients. The researchers present the NGS diagnosis platform at Medica in Düsseldorf from November 14–17, 2016. It is estimated that in Germany alone around 150,000 people fall ill with sepsis every year; despite medical advances, between 30 and 50 percent of the patients still die of the consequences. One of the reasons for the high mortality rate: the diagnosis often comes too late for the lifesaving therapy with antibiotics that only combat the specific causative pathogen.

  • Gene Taxi with Turbo Drive

    After infection with CD9-containing viruses, human HEK293 cells produce a red fluorescent reporter protein that indicates the successful transmission of viral genetic information into the cells. Photo: Kai Böker

    Scientists at the German Primate Center improve DNA transfer in gene therapy. Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis – these and many other fatal hereditary human diseases are genetically transmitted. Many cancers and cardiovascular diseases are also caused by genetic defects. Gene therapy is a promising possibility for the treatment of these diseases. With the help of genetically modified viruses, DNA is introduced into cells in order to repair or replace defective genes. By using this method, scientists from the German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research have discovered a quicker and more efficient treatment for the cells.

  • Genome-based diets maximise growth, fecundity, and lifespan

    Researchers use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster for their studies on genome-based diet. Dr. Sebastian Grönke / Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing

    A moderate reduction in food intake, known as dietary restriction, protects against multiple ageing-related diseases and extends life span, but can also supress growth and fertility. A research group from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne has now developed a diet based on the model organism’s genome, which enhances growth and fecundity with no costs to lifespan. What is the best path to a long and healthy life? Scientists had a relatively simple answer for many years: less food. But it turned out that this could have unpleasant consequences. Experiments showed that putting flies or mice on diet could impair their development and fecundity. How could we take advantage of the beneficial effects of dieting, and at the same time avoid the damaging effects?

  • Genregulation: In Form für den richtigen Schnitt

    Bindung der großen Untereinheit von U2AF an die Vorläufer-Boten-mRNA Bild: Christoph Hohmann / NIM

    Bevor genetische Information in Proteine umgesetzt wird, entfernt eine komplexe molekulare Maschine – das Spleißosom – nicht benötigte Sequenzen. Dabei spielt dessen Struktur eine wichtige Rolle, wie LMU-Wissenschaftler zeigen. Ribonukleinsäure – kurz RNA – übermittelt die in den Genen gespeicherten Erbinformationen und damit die Bauanleitung für Proteine. Bei der Genabschrift im Zellkern entsteht zuerst eine Vorläufer-Boten RNA (mRNA), aus der durch eine komplexe molekulare Maschine im Zellkern – das Spleißosom –unterschiedliche nicht benötigte Abschnitte herausgeschnitten und entfernt werden. Dieser Vorgang wird als alternatives Spleißen bezeichnet und spielt für die Genregulation eine wichtige Rolle, denn jeder der zurechtgeschnittenen mRNA-Stränge liefert den Bauplan für ein anderes Protein – ein Gen kann also in mehrere Proteine mit unterschiedlicher Funktion umgesetzt werden.

  • Herz-Bindegewebe unter Strom

    Wenige Nanometer breite Tunnel verbinden Muskel- und Nicht-Muskelzellen im Herzen. (Grün: Bindegewebszelle, Blau: Muskelzelle). Universitätsklinikum Freiburg

    Erstmals elektrische Kopplung von Muskel- und Nicht-Muskelzellen im Herzen nachgewiesen / Erkenntnisse könnten neue Therapieansätze bei Herzinfarkt und Herzrhythmus-Störungen ermöglichen / Veröffentlichung in der Fachzeitschrift PNAS. Es wurde bereits lange vermutet, aber nie bewiesen: Im Herzen sind Muskelzellen und Nicht-Muskelzellen elektrisch miteinander verbunden. Das zeigen nun erstmals Forscherinnen und Forscher des Universitäts-Herzzentrums Freiburg · Bad Krozingen (UHZ). Im Labor schleusten sie in unterschiedliche Typen von Herzzellen Moleküle ein, die bei Spannungsänderungen aufleuchten. Diese Licht-Signale konnten die Forscher nicht nur in Muskelzellen, sondern auch im Bindegewebe des Herzens nachweisen, wie es beispielsweise bei der Vernarbung des Herzens verstärkt gebildet wird.

  • High-speed camera snaps bio-switch in action

    The riboswitch 'button' before, during and after coupling of the ligand (green), from left to right. Credit: Yun-Xing Wang and Jason Stagno, National Cancer Institute

    X-ray experiment opens new route to study biochemical reactions. With a powerful X-ray camera, scientists have watched a genetic switch at work for the first time. The study led by Yun-Xing Wang from the National Cancer Institute of the U.S. reveals the ultrafast dynamics of a riboswitch, a gene regulator that can switch individual genes on and off. The innovative technique used for this investigation opens up a completely new avenue for studying numerous fundamental biochemical reactions, as the team reports in a fast-track publication in the journal Nature.