Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Change Management

Gene enhancer P2 orchestrates embryo development via interaction with a range of molecules

16 August 2019

Change Management

It takes a perfectly choreographed sequence of impossibly complex steps to develop from a single cell to a full person. Each step is driven by the precisely timed activity of specific genes. Enhancers are other stretches of DNA that guide this process, like stagehands ushering in performers on cue. In the fruit fly, one gene essential for development, called Hunchback, relies on its enhancer, P2, which in turn interacts with a backstage protein called Bicoid. But how the gradual accumulation of Bicoid (green in the fruit fly embryo pictured, with Hunchback in red) gives a sudden cue for Hunchback to take the stage is unclear. Researchers found that P2 interacts not just with Bicoid, but with a much wider range of molecules than previously thought before passing the prompt to Hunchback. Changes to enhancers can cause diseases like cancer, so understanding how they function might help us take control when things go wrong.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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