Upstate News

April 27, 2003
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate study on volatility of cell protein published in Science

A protein (heterochromatin protein 1) needed to create a chromosome structure that directs chromosomes to their correct places during cell division has been proven to be more changeable than scientists first thought, according to a study by researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University and the National Institutes of Health.

The findings, published in the January 2003 issue of Science, provides researchers with a new understanding of how proteins act in living cells, which is key to finding out why some cells divide uncontrollably and thus lead to cancer.

“Our research showed that in living cells, proteins in chromosomes bind and
come off of DNA much more dynamically than we would have predicted from studying them in test tubes,” said David Gilbert, Ph.D., SUNY Upstate associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and one of the study’s authors. “In addition protein complexes that are normally thought to be static even when looking in living cells are extremely dynamic, with individual components exchanging on and off, or in and out, very rapidly.”

Gilbert said that genetically inactive parts of chromosomes have been generally thought to be inert. “It’s actually a very accessible structure,” he said. “It was previously thought that HP1 statically locked in a tight structure that prevented any gene activity. We now have to revise this thinking.”

The study was also highlighted in recent issues of Nature, Current
Biology, Journal of Cell Biology,Nature Reviews and The Scientist.

Adrian McNairn of SUNY Upstate also was a study author.

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