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Study unravels DNA packaging to provide insights into cell renewal

University scientists have shed light on how DNA is compacted in dividing cells, a discovery which will help understand how cell renewal can fail.

When a cell is dividing, its DNA is compacted down to 10,000 times smaller than its usual size for ease of division. Thousands of proteins vital for the occurrence of this compaction have been discovered. These proteins help to protect and fold genetic material before division takes place. This research may help us understand what happens when the packaging process fails and cells divide abnormally – which can cause cancer and miscarriage.

Numerous existing scientific techniques were combined for this large scale study, allowing the definition of some 4,000 proteins involved in cell renewal. Researchers hope that through the identification of essential proteins, a better understanding of the influence they have on cell division may be acquired. The research was carried out in collaboration with University of Oxford and the Japanese National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Japan.

Professor William Earnshaw, from the School of Biological Sciences, who directed the study with Professor Juri Rappsilber, said, “Until now, our understanding of the very complex way in which DNA moves during cell division was patchy - this latest development allows us, for the first time, to fully identify all the proteins that take part in the process, and how they interact with one another. Future work is needed to reveal more of the intricacies of this process and how to prevent it from going wrong.”

The original publication appeared in Cell.


Issy Anderson


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