The findings are published in Nature in collaboration with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and colleagues from Canada.
Every cell in our body is equipped with an identical genetic make-up, but each cell uses it differently. Specific proteins called transcription factors activate or suppress individual genes. "Thus, they facilitate the formation of all kinds of different cell types such as immune cells or blood cells, even though the genetic material is the same in all cells," said Andreas Trumpp from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM)*.
Myc - Cancer - Protein - Hand - Transcription
Myc is known as a classic cancer protein. On the one hand, it functions as a transcription factor that is needed for normal blood formation from stem cells. On the other hand, it can lead to cancer if it is present at increased levels. However, the precise mechanisms of how Myc levels are controlled in each cell type have been largely unknown so far. Now a team led by Trumpp, jointly with colleagues from EMBL, has discovered a gene region that regulates the activity of the Myc gene in the individual cell types of the blood.
The research team found that a cluster of gene enhancers called BENC is responsible for Myc's fine control. BENC is located in an area of the chromosome that is very distant from the controlled Myc gene. This cooperation works because the chromosome forms a kind of loop, thus establishing a direct vicinity of the enhancer and the Myc gene.
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