Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Mammalian Genes

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Mammalian Genes

Article excerpt

In one of the first efforts of its kind, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers have taken mammalian genome maps, including human maps, one step further by showing not just the order in which genes fall in the genome, but which genes actually interact. The findings, published in Genome Research, will help researchers better understand which genes work together, and shed light on how they collaborate to help cells thrive or die.

Mammals, including humans, have roughly 20,000 different genes. Genes hold instructions to create proteins that determine not only physical characteristics, such as outward appearance, but all bodily processes, from moving blood through the veins to stimulating the immune system to attack a virus. They can also be pivotal in the development of diseases, such as cancer.

Each mammalian cell contains the full complement of genes, although depending on the cell's activity, not all the genes are active. The genes engage not only in one-on-one interactions but also create wide networks involving dozens of genes. Little had previously been known about which genes work together most often in mammals and the networks they form.

For this study, the UCLA scientists used human radiation hybrid genome maps developed several years ago for the worldwide Human Genome Project and several other mammalian radiation hybrid maps for dogs, cats, and mice. They found substantial overlap and commonalities between gene interactions and networks across all four species, thus creating the first complete and comprehensive genetic interaction maps for mammalian cells.

Previous research had mapped interactions between proteins, which are set in motion by genes, but not the genes themselves, which provide more direct and nearly comprehensive information about the connection strength between genes. Researchers say this is an important step in furthering the understanding of the role each gene plays in triggering a process or function in the body.

"We were surprised that no one had done this before, and that it worked so well," says study author Desmond Smith, a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. …

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