Check out my E-waste credit program, see customizable holiday gifts, meet Pharmacology PhD student Ifeh Akano and of course a science comic.
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Meet Ifeh Akano
From Graduate Student Ifeh Akano: What determines the code of life?!
A simple answer would be the sequences that make up our DNA, but it’s no secret that it is much more complex than that. Epigenetic processes alter gene expression without changing the DNA sequence, in response to both internal and external signals.
There are two main aspects to epigenetics - modifications of DNA and modifications of histones. In my lab, I am studying the effects of histone modifications on the epigenetic regulation of transcription. What are histones?! You can think of them as DNA-packaging proteins!
The eukaryotic genome consists of DNA wrapped around an octamer of the four core histones – H2A, H2B, H3, and H4 – to form repeating units termed nucleosome core particles (NCPs)
Histones are decorated with a wide variety of post-translational modifications (PTMs), including acetylation, methylation, and ubiquitination. These mechanisms regulate diverse processes such as transcriptional activation, gene silencing, the DNA damage response, and more! These dynamic nucleosomal changes in the chromatin architecture are passed down to daughter cells to mediate all DNA-related processes, ultimately maintaining cell identity and fate.
Alright, so what am I doing right now? I am making NCPs! This is a very important foundational experiment for my project. In order to make NCPs, first you have to make the histone octamers and the DNA fragments. Next, you want to assemble the NCPs by mixing the octamers with the DNA in a salt-containing buffer and gradually decrease the salt concentration. Why salt? If you guessed electrostatic interactions, then you guessed right! Histones are positively charged and the DNA is negatively charged. As the salt is slowly dialyzed away, the DNA spontaneously assembles with the histone octamers to form NCPs!
The moral of the story: yay for science and epigenetic mechanisms are important!