Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Insight into the role of DNA packaging proteins called histones in a cell's genetic memory

18 January 2020

Forget-me-not

Moving house is a lot of hassle. Everything has to be packed up and put away, then unpacked in the new location so that life can get back to normal. In the same way, cells need to ‘pack up’ all their DNA when they get ready to divide, then unpack it and re-establish normal patterns of gene activity again afterwards. It’s thought that cells use specially marked DNA packaging proteins called histones to ‘remember’ which genes should be on or off. The yeast cells in this video have altered patterns of histone marks at a gene making a green fluorescent protein (GFP). While most of the cells in this video ‘remember’ whether or not they’re making GFP after they’ve divided, one of them ‘forgets’ and switches from grey to green. By tweaking the histone marks and seeing what happens, researchers are starting to figure out the genetic ‘memory’ in cells.

Written by Kat Arney

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