Team IDs two pathways where chromosomes are rearranged
Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579
SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 10, 2013) — Biologists reported recently in Nature that they have identified two pathways through which chromosomes are rearranged in the cells of mammals. These types of changes are associated with the development of some types of cancers and inherited disorders in people.
“Our finding provides a target to prevent these rearrangements, so we could conceivably prevent cancer in some high-risk people,” said senior author Edward P. (Paul) Hasty, D.V.M., of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Partial funding came from the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
The two pathways rearrange chromosomes by repeatedly recombining certain strings of DNA that are naturally found in the genome, Dr. Hasty said. DNA, the chemical substance of genes, changes its structure and replicates during cell division and other processes. “Repeats” are sequences of DNA that are duplicated.
Both pathways the scientists discovered are important for the synthesis of DNA. “Therefore, we propose that chromosomal rearrangements occur as DNA is being synthesized,” Dr. Hasty said.
Repeated DNA related to genetic mutations
The experiments were conducted with mouse embryonic stem cells grown in tissue culture. The team measured how often repeated DNA was recombined in normal cells. This is called “repeat fusion.” The scientists then looked for repeat fusion in cells affected by several genetic mutations. This analysis identified the two pathways and showed large, complicated rearrangements that involved “DNA repeats” on many chromosomes.
During cell division, DNA is coiled into pairs of threadlike structures called the chromosomes. Each human cell has 22 numbered pairs of chromosomes called autosomes. The sex chromosomes are the 23rd pair in cells and determine a person’s gender. Females have two X chromosomes, while males have an X and a Y chromosome.
Chromosomal causes for cancer
“We hope the new findings will help us better understand the mechanisms that cause chromosomal instability, which causes some cancers in people,” Dr. Hasty said.
At the Health Science Center, Dr. Hasty is a professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine. He has a laboratory at the UT Institute of Biotechnology and is a faculty member of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies.
See citation and acknowledgements
The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.
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