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Colorado State Gets $7.8M for Nucleosome Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Three scientists at Colorado State University will use a $7.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how genes control cellular behavior and how that can impact human health, according to the university.

The researchers will use the five-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study how nucleosomes unfold and disassemble to expose genes that give cells their biological traits, the university said Monday.

"Because the nucleosome plays a pivotal role in gene expression, finding ways to manipulate its assembly and disassembly are of great biological and potentially therapeutic interest," Peter Preusch, who is chief of the Biophysics Branch in the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics at NIGMS, explained in a statement.

"We know that nucleosomes serve to compact the DNA to fit into a cell nucleus; what remains a long-standing mystery is how genes - encoded by the DNA - are unwound from the nucleosomes to allow access for copying their instructions into proteins – with a specific biological outcome for the cell," said CSU Professor Jennifer Nyborg.

"The cell faces an enormous paradox – it must tightly wrap the DNA around nucleosomes for compaction, but at the same time it must unwrap the DNA at specific sites to turn a gene on, added Nyborg, who is lead investigator for the grant.

Nyborg will study the basic biochemistry of how nucleosomes are disassembled to expose the DNA of a gene.

CSU Distinguished Professor Karolin Luger will conduct experiments that focus on a protein involved in nucleosome assembly that may reveal how nucleosomes move off of DNA when genes are turned on.

Professor Laurie Stargell will use the funding to study the movement of nucleosomes when genes are turned on in living cells in yeast, which will complement the research of her CSU colleagues.

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