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The DNA of a single cell is two to three meters long end-to-end. To fit in the nucleus and function correctly, DNA is packaged around specialized proteins. These DNA-protein complexes are called nucleosomes, and they are a small part of a larger structure called chromatin. Nucleosomes can be thought of as the cell's DNA storage and protection unit.
When a particular gene needs to be expressed, the cell requires access to the protected DNA within chromatin. This means that the chromatin structure must be opened and the nucleosomes must be removed to expose the underlying target gene.
Place - Process - Chromatin - Remodeling - Gene
This takes place in the orchestrated process of chromatin remodeling, which regulates gene expression and involves a multitude of actors. Unravelling this pivotal step would contribute to the development of genetic engineering tools.
Now, the lab of Beat Fierz at EPFL has been able to uncover the first steps in the chromatin-opening process at the level of a single molecule, using a combination of chemical biology and biophysical methods. Published in Molecular Cell, the work looks at the role of a group of...
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