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"When is too much (of a gene) bad for you?"

NEWS

10
Jul
Fri, 10/07/2009 - 12:39

"When is too much (of a gene) bad for you?"

PRESS RELEASE
WHEN IS TOO MUCH (OF A GENE) BAD FOR YOU?
Researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), in Barcelona, have found a general mechanism for why too much of a gene causes disease.
Mutations cause disease in two general ways.  Either they produce too little of a functional gene, or they produce too much of it.  It is generally not understood why too much of some, but not most, genes causes disease.  In a paper published today, in the 10th July issue of the prestigious scientific journal Cell, researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), in Barcelona, describe a general mechanism for why too much of a gene causes disease.  Genes encode proteins, and the research suggests that it is the “stickiness” of these proteins that causes disease.  When certain proteins are over-produced they stick to other proteins with which they do not normally associate.  This then interferes with the functions of a cell, rather like re-wiring an electric circuit or too much traffic blocking the roads of a city. By measuring the tendency to be “sticky” and to interact promiscuously, the researchers show that they can predict which genes will be harmful when over-produced.
The research illustrates how basic research into the genetics of simple organisms can be highly informative for understanding human health. The researchers first studied the types of genes that are toxic when over-produced in yeast, a single-celled organism.  The same types of “sticky” proteins were then found to be frequent among genes that cause cancer when over-produced in mice and humans.  Moreover, the research suggests a general strategy to treat many genetic diseases in humans – by designing drugs that prevent these abnormal “sticky” interactions.
The research was performed at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona by Tanya Vavouri, Jennifer Semple, and Rosa Garcia-Verdugo, and led by ICREA Researcher Ben Lehner. It was funded by the European Research Council (ERC), ICREA, the EMBL/CRG Systems Biology Research Unit, and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN).
About Ben Lehner: Ben Lehner is currently a junior group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, within the EMBL/CRG Systems Biology Research Unit. Previously he worked at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK.  He has been at the CRG since December 2006, and an ICREA Researcher since October 2007.  His lab uses experiments and computational analysis to understand basic questions in genetics.
In 2008 he was one of three researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) to be awarded an ERC Starting Grant in the first call for basic research of the European Research Council (ERC).
Reference work: Vavouri et al. "Theory: Intrinsic protein disorder and interaction promiscuity are widely associated with dosage sensitivity". Publishing in Cell, July 10 2009, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.04.029. http://www.cell.com
For more information: Gloria Lligadas, Communication & PR Dept., Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Dr. Aiguader, 88 – Edif. PRBB, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, Tel. +34 93 316 01 53, gloria.lligadas@crg.es