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Scientists investigate epigenetic impact across whole genome

Scientists from the OIST Plant Epigenetics Unit grew the epigenetic mutant strains of Arabidopsis thaliana in different trays under artificial light. Credit: OIST All life depends on a genome, which acts as an instruction manual for building all the products essential for development and survival. But knowing which of these individual instructions—or genes—need to be read, and when, is key for a properly functioning organism: so how does life get this right?

Enter epigenetic regulation—the process by which cells control the expression, or readability, of genes. In multicellular organisms, epigenetics is the reason why every type of cell varies in shape and function, with each cell type following a different subset of instructions. Cells also use epigenetic regulation as an ‘immune system,’ suppressing the activity of disruptive ‘jumping genes’ called transposons that can otherwise hop around the genome and threaten its integrity.

Despite its importance, scientists are still struggling to untangle the many pathways that cells use to precisely control the activity of genes. Now, researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have uncovered a clue to the mystery, by looking at how plant cells suppress transcription—the first stage of how genes manufacture their products. Their […]

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