Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


 


 

The rise of the undead gene

30 August 2011

By Kyrillos Georgiadis

Appeared in BioNews 622

A group of Irish scientists has discovered that a supposedly 'dead' pseudogene is, in fact, active. The gene, DHFRL1, was long thought to be inactive, however new research, published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests this is not the case.

'Scientists have known about these 'zombie' or pseudogenes for decades but the genes were always considered dead and inactive', said Dr Anne Parle-McDermott, lecturer in genetics at Dublin City University and head of the research group who made the discovery.

Pseudogenes are inactive relatives of known genes, which, through either mutations or dysfunctional RNA, do not produce proteins. However, due to their similarity and shared ancestry with known functional genes they can reveal interesting information about the evolution of the genome.

Dr Parle-McDermott and her team were investigating the DHFR gene, which involved in metabolism. It is also a primary target for leukaemia chemotherapy due to its central role in cell growth. However when its associated pseudogenes were investigated, the team were surprised to find that one, DHFRL1, was active and helped regulate energy within the cell.

'[This] finding has huge implications, given many of the thousands of known pseudogenes may not be zombies at all', Dr Parle-McDermott said. 'It is important for a number of reasons, in the cancer field for one. It represents a new target that people didn't know about until now'.

'A combination drug therapy could target both the primary gene DHFR but also its mutant copy. We think this might be a better treatment for cancer', she continued.

This could also be an important finding for spina bifida risk assessment. DHFR has been shown to regulate folic acid metabolism, a key factor in the protection of spina bifida. Testing for mutations in DHFRL1 could help determine the risk a mother has for having a baby with the condition.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
DCU - press release | 23 August 2011
 
Irish Central | 25 June 2011
 
Irish Times | 25 August 2011
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

22 August 2011 - by Daniel Malynn 
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is this summer's big blockbuster and is directed by Rupert Wyatt. The film is a prequel to the other Planet of the Apes films and charts how the apes came to revolt. The basic storyline is thus; Dr Will Rodman (James Franco) is testing a gene therapy called ALZ-112 on chimps to find a cure for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's...
13 September 2010 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
The genome of an Irish man has been fully sequenced for the first time, and reveals a unique 'Irish genetic signature'. Professor Brendan Loftus from the Conway Institute at University College Dublin, who led the study, hopes that the findings will contribute to the understanding of genetic diversity...
28 June 2010 - by Professor Marcus Pembrey 
The 10th anniversary of the first draft of the human genome sequence has been characterised by justifiable celebration at the extraordinary progress in DNA sequencing technology, yet disappointment with the impact it has had on medicine to date. Is this disappointment also justified? Not really...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation