From Berkeley Lab: “New Key to Organism Complexity Identified”


Berkeley Lab

Berkeley Scientists Find that a Critical Transcription Factor Co-exists in Two Distinct States

January 17, 2013
Lynn Yarris

The enormously diverse complexity seen amongst individual species within the animal kingdom evolved from a surprisingly small gene pool. For example, mice effectively serve as medical research models because humans and mice share 80-percent of the same protein-coding genes.

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The ‘rearranged’ state of the lobe A (yellow) of the horseshoe-like TFIID transcription factor enables TFIID to bind with DNA (green) and start the process by which DNA is copied into RNA.

The key to morphological and behavioral complexity, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests, is the regulation of gene expression by a family of DNA-binding proteins called ‘transcription factors.’ Now, a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley has discovered the secret behind how one these critical transcription factors is able to perform – a split personality.

Using a technique called single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, the team, which was led by biophysicist Eva Nogales, showed that the transcription factor known as ‘TFIID’ can co-exist in two distinct structural states.”

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Michael Cianfrocco and Eva Nogales used single-particle cryo-electron microscopy to learn how the TFIID transcription factor helps regulate of gene expression, a process critical to the growth, development, health and survival of all organisms. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

See the full article here.

A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

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