Students Staff

26 February 2010

Important discovery in gene regulation

Teams of proteins at work

Scientists at the University have a greater understanding of how our genes are controlled following a major research project.

The findings of the study, which looked at how proteins work as teams to control genes in the cells, could also help to unravel the mechanisms of disease such as cancer.

The five-year research, funded by the Medical Research Council, has been published in one of the top science journals, Molecular and Cellular Biology.

The research team, led by Dr Elena Klenova from the Department of Biological Sciences, looked at the protein called CTCF, which was previously identified as a key ‘controller’ of many of our genes, making them either active or inactive.

However, the scientists have discovered that other proteins were working with CTCF for fine tuning of the genes. This collaboration between CTCF and its neighbours at the molecular level provides the mechanism by which CTCF’s function as a gene regulator is controlled.

Dr Dawn Farrar, the principal researcher on the project, said the discovery of the link between CTCF and other proteins was a ‘fascinating example of molecular teamwork’.

Dr Klenova, said: ‘Understanding the factors responsible for the regulation of our genes, and how, why and when particular genes are switched on and off may give us a greater understanding of general biological systems. It also helps us to unravel the mechanisms of disease such as cancer. We believe that our published study has contributed to present knowledge of gene regulation.’

It is hoped scientists will be able to build on this research – which was undertaken in collaboration with the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute and Karolinska Institute in Sweden – to further understand the factors responsible for the regulation of our genes, and how this can lead to disease.


Note to Editors
For more information or to interview Dr Dawn Farrar, please contact the University Communications Office on 01206 872400 or e-mail

The paper: ‘Mutational analysis of the poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation sites of the transcription factor CTCF provides an insight into the mechanism of its regulation by poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation’ by Dawn Farrar, Sushma Rai, Igor Chernukhin, Maja Jagodic, Yoko Ito, Samer Yammine, Rolf Ohlsson, Adele Murrell, and Elena Klenova is published in Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2010, 30(5):1199-216. One of the images from the paper features on the front cover. Molecular and Cellular Biology journal is available online at:

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