2/01/2006

Genes Controlled by DNA Snippets

"Most people don’t realize that genes make up a very small percentage of the human DNA code," said Joseph M. Miano, Ph.D., senior author of a Genome Research journal paper and associate professor within the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Genes are relatively straightforward compared to what lies ahead. We believe that the real genetic gymnastics, the real intelligence of our system, is controlled by tiny bits of genetic material that tell genes what to do."

Genes are the chains of deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) that encode instructions for the building of proteins, the workhorses that make up the body’s organs and carry its signals.
The Human Genome Project, which first reported results in 2001, produced a near complete listing of the DNA sequences that make up all human genes (the genome). Key project findings included that human genetic material consists of about 3 billion base pairs, the “letters" that make up the genetic code. Researchers also concluded that genes, specific batches of code that direct protein construction, comprise just about 2 percent of all human DNA. A central question in genetics has become: what does the remaining 98 percent of human genetic material do?

Regulatory sequences are emerging as an important part of the non-gene majority of human genetic material, once thought of as “junk DNA."

In Miano’s study, the regulatory sequence under examination was the CArG box. The nucleotide building blocks of DNA chains may contain any one of four nucleobases: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). Any sequence of code starting with 2 Cs, followed by any combination of 6 As or Ts, and ending in 2 Gs is a CArG box.

According to Miano, there are 1,216 variations of CArG box that together occur approximately three million times throughout the human DNA blueprint.

CArG boxes exert their influence over genes because they are “shaped" to partner with several proteins within a genetic regulatory network. Throughout a human life, such networks are believed to “decide" the timing and location of all gene expression, the process through which genetic information is converted into templates for protein construction.

As part of this effort, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center scanned through the vast human DNA code to reveal for the first time 60 genes influenced by one such sequence.

Why is this important?
The Human Genome Project was just the beginning for understanding how genes affect the human body.

Study Finds 60 New Genes Controlled by DNA Snippet - URMC Press Room

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