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The molecules responsible for transcriptional bursting



The molecules responsible for transcriptional bursting

Figure 1: Illustration of DNA (purple) being transcribed to produce messenger RNA (red). RIKEN researchers have discovered the proteins responsible for regulating this transcription in single mouse embryonic stem cells. Credit: Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library New insights into what causes neighboring, genetically identical stem cells in mouse embryos to behave differently in terms of the proteins they produce could have implications for regenerative medicine and the early detection of cancer. Cells are like miniature factories that produce proteins that organs need to function. This production process begins with the copying, or transcription, of DNA into messenger RNA (mRNA).

When viewing lots of cells en masse this transcription seems smooth and continuous. But the situation is very different on a single-cell level, where DNA transcription proceeds in fits and starts. This erratic nature of DNA transcription, which is dubbed transcriptional bursting, is partly why cells with identical DNA in the same environment differ from each other. Despite much research, nobody really knows the molecular mechanisms that cause the fluctuation in gene expression in the cells of mammals.

Now, by analyzing the mRNA produced by single embryonic stem cells from mice, Itoshi Nikaido of the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research, Hiroshi Ochiai […]

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