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Sex, Genes and Disease

Germ cells – those that become egg or sperm – use a different gene silencing system to other cells and it's used differently in male and female germ cells

25 December 2021

Sex, Genes and Disease

The control of gene expression is extremely important for cell development, and if this process goes wrong, it could result in a myriad of human pathologies. By investigating which mechanisms diseased cells use to control gene expression, we might be able to understand the genetic processes behind the disease and prevent it from occurring. One way to control gene expression is DNA methylation, which can silence genes. During development, primordial germ cells (PGCs, embryonic cells that become sperm and egg) lose almost all DNA methylation before becoming sex cells. A genetic study in mice was carried out to analyse how gene expression is controlled in PGCs in the absence of DNA methylation. It was found that male (pictured with different proteins highlighted) and female PGCs have alternative gene expression control systems. As DNA methylation is implicated in disease, the results provide insights into the vulnerabilities of diseased cells, which could lead to novel treatment therapies.

Read more about this research from the Reprogramming and Chromatin Research Group at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences here

Written by Daniella Gimbosh

Research published in Nature, December 2021

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