IMAGE: UHRF1 may serve as a target for drug therapies. view more
Credit: © Helmholtz Zentrum München
Epigenetic changes often play an important role in cancer, because they cause the genetic material to be read incorrectly at certain locations. Genes that are especially critical are those that control the growth and death of cells. Scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum München have now discovered new details about the UHRF1 protein. UHRF1 catalyses particular steps that are required for marking DNA with epigenetic modifications that suppress parts of the genome. As reported in Molecular Cell, the molecule may serve as a target for drug therapies because it is produced at elevated levels in cancer cells.
All the cells in our body have the same complement of genes yet perform entirely different functions. This is because genes are read differently depending on the type of cell in which they occur. Gene activity is regulated not only at the level of the DNA sequence but also at the epigenetic level by a variety of chemical modifications made to DNA and histones. “Histones are proteins that ‘package’ the DNA strands in the nucleus into chromosomes. But they also play an important role in controlling gene