Contrary to expectations, this latest study reveals that each gene doesn’t have an ideal location in the cell nucleus. Instead, genes are always on the move. Published in the journal Nature, researchers examined the organisation of genes in stem cells from mice. They revealed that these cells continually remix their genes, changing their positions as they progress though different stages. This work, which has also inspired a musical collaboration, suggests that moving genes about in this way could help cells to fine-tune the volume of each gene to suit the cell’s needs.
Scientists had believed that the location of genes in cells are relatively fixed with each gene having it’s rightful place. Different types of cells could organise their genes in different ways, but genes weren’t thought to move around much except when cells divide. This is the first time that gene organisation in individual cells has been studied in detail. The results provide snapshots of gene organisation, with each cell arranging genes in unique ways. Paper. (paywall) – Takashi Nagano, Yaniv Lubling, Csilla Várnai, Carmel Dudley, Wing Leung, Yael Baran, Netta Mendelson Cohen, Steven Wingett, Peter Fraser, Amos Tanay. Cell-cycle dynamics of chromosomal organization at single-cell resolution. Nature, 2017; 547 (7661): 61 DOI: 10.1038/nature23001 More.
Fine-tune? These genes certainly aren’t the 1990s bag-of-marbles genes, featured in endless pop science articles. This find may have considerable implications for epigenetics. That said, these guys better watch their mouth. It might begin to look like they think all this organization requires some sort of ground plan or design. That’s a forbidden thought; any nonsense is preferable as an alternative.
See also: There’s a gene for that… or is there?
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter? (fine-tuning)