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NYU Partners Funded to Pursue Histone Involvement in Disease

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Investigators at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and NYU plan to use a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how histones may be involved in cancer and diabetes, NYU-Poly said today.

The research team plans to use computational chemistry and protein engineering approaches to study these scaffolding proteins, which are modified by enzymes called histone acetyltransferases, or HATs. Those changes can then affect gene expression.

"HATs play an essential role in gene regulation, and while we know that aberrant or mutated HATs are associated with diseases like cancer and diabetes, we don't understand their precise catalytic mechanisms," Jin Kim Montclare, an associate professor of chemical and molecular engineering, said in a statement.

"If we can understand the processes by which these proteins can modify histones and how mutations can lead to disease, we move closer to creating targeted therapies to prevent or reverse these changes," Montclare added.

Montclare's partner on the project, Yingkai Zhang, an associate professor of chemistry at NYU, will develop a computational study of HAT mechanics to create a detailed picture of how they function. This project will enable Montclare's efforts to engineer and test HATs and other designed variants for their reactivity on histones.

"Bringing computational powers to bear on these processes will not only elucidate the underpinnings of the enzymes as they exist now, but will allow us to run simulations to test the impact of modifications and therapies to reverse the kinds of changes linked to disease," Zhang added.

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