"Scientists have known for many years that changing which genes are turned on in a particular cell can lead to birth defects and cancer," explains Stephen Small, a professor in New York University's Department of Biology and the senior author of the paper, which appears in the journal Molecular Cell. "However, the intricacies of this activation had not been clear. Our results reveal how the process is orchestrated during an embryo's development."
Specifically, previous research had identified promoters -- or "on/off" switches" -- for thousands of genes. However, these studies had not delineated how these promoters are activated, leaving unclear fundamental aspects of how cells become different from each other during embryogenesis.
Molecular - Cell - Study - Gene - Hunchback
The Molecular Cell study focused on a gene called hunchback (hb), which makes cells in the head region of the fly embryo that are different from cells in the abdomen.
The NYU biologists uncovered hb's DNA sequence code in a region called the "hb promoter," or genetic "on/off switch."
Hb - Promoter - Switch - Hb - Gene
"If the hb promoter switch is turned off, the hb gene is silent and is not expressed," explains Small. "However, if it is switched on, the gene produces an RNA copy of itself, which is required...
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