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Scientists discover roles for a cellular motor in cancer

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Utah scientists have discovered new functions of a key cellular machine that regulates gene packaging and is mutated in 20% of human cancers. The study was published in print today in the journal Molecular Cell.

Scientists discover roles for a cellular motor in cancer

by Huntsman Cancer Institute

Killer T cells surround a cancer cell. Credit: NIH



Genes are segments of cellular DNA, and gene packaging is called chromatin. Genes are tightly packaged when they are not activated and then unpackaged by chromatin remodeling machines when genes need to be turned on. Mutations in chromatin regulating machines are a significant driver of cancer and other human diseases, as the mutant chromatin regulators improperly unpackage and express genes, which disrupts normal cell growth, identity, and development.

Chromatin remodeling machines have been a longstanding focus of Brad Cairns, Ph.D., study lead author, who discovered the first chromatin remodeling machine in 1996. Cairns is a scientist at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and professor and chair of oncological sciences at the University of Utah (U of U). The Cairns Lab works to understand how chromatin impacts gene expression in humans and other organisms and provides instructions for cell growth, identity, and development. An important aspect of this work is better understanding the role of chromatin in cancer and other diseases.

The major component of chromatin is nucleosomes, which are similar to beads…

Science X staff

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