Vital Human Genetic Structures Identified
GENETIC INFORMATION transferred within cells plays an essential role both in the healthy function of the human body and in changes within cells that trigger serious disease. Researchers, led by Dmitry Temiakov, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology, SOM, identified important mechanisms of this genetic transfer process for the first time. Teaming up with one of the world’s foremost crystallographers, Prof. Patrick Cramer in the Gene Center, Munich, Germany, they obtained large, well-diffracting crystals of an active form of human mitochondrial (small organelles in each human cell responsible for the energy production of the cell) polymerase. The structure was solved in Cramer’s lab and reveals the mechanistic adaptations that occurred during evolution of a self-sufficient T7-like RNA polymerase to become regulated by transcription initiation factors. It is the first-ever representation of mitochondrial polymerase. The structural information can be used to understand how mitochondrial polymerase binds DNA, interacts with other mitochondrial proteins and regulates expression of mitochondrial genes under different conditions. These new findings, published in the journal Nature, open the door to developing potential therapies for several serious diseases including cancers.