Body map: what is the process of building and aging our body

Scientists have long searched for a way of unraveling how genes HOX create a map of the body – the key to deciphering this genome may reveal the secrets of build processes and aging of our body.

Карта тела: как происходит процесс построения и старения нашего организма

Currently, an international team of researchers from Columbia University and Spanish national research Council (CSIC), with the center at the University of Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain, found a method that can determine the role of each Hox gene in the body fruit flies. The results of a study recently published in Nature Communications, help comprehend the exact process which is crucial for understanding not only growth and development but also for aging and the diseases of the body.

“Genome contains thousands of genes and millions of DNA letters, is the most complex ever written codes, said Richard Mann, Ph. D., principal investigator at Columbia University for the study of intellectual behavior. The deciphering of this code was so difficult because the evolution of wrote it off at dawn of its existence, and perfected over hundreds of millions of years. Today’s study offers the key to cracking this code, moving us, as never before, for understanding how Hox genes to build a healthy body, or how this process is disturbed by disease.”

Hox genes are very ancient, they are present in all species of animals, even primitive, for example, jellyfish. Each type of organism has a different combination of these genes. Fruit flies have eight Hox genes, and person – 39.

These genes produce special proteins, called transcription factors, which interact with similar proteins, called cofactors Hox to connect with different segments of DNA and to switch on and off many other genes at the right time.

“Because these genes are closely associated with many aspects of development, proved to be incredibly difficult to separate the individual Hox genes and track their activity over time, explains James Castelli-Gair Hombria, Ph. D., principal investigator at the University of Pablo de Olavide. – We had an incredibly difficult equation to solve, with a huge number of unknowns”.

Exploring the genetic activity of a developing fruit fly, the scientists stumbled upon a small piece of regulatory DNA called VVI1 + 2, which was active in all the cells of developing fruit flies, apparently, was regulated in all eight Hox genes present in this insect. The ubiquity of DNA segment VVI1 + 2 in the body of a developing flies made it an ideal system to study the Hox gene family. This piece of DNA gave scientists the opportunity to develop a method to systematically control the activity VVI1 + 2 to see how each Hox gene. Experts used a complex computer algorithm called No Read Left Behind (NRLB), and by numerous biochemical and computational analyses were able to systematically manipulate the activity of the Hox chain with an unprecedented level of accuracy. Now, the experts had the starting point for the systematic transcription of Hox genes and understanding the developmental genetics of the body.

The researchers ‘ findings are especially promising because they can be applied to the whole genome. The steps that Hox genes make to regulate VVI1 + 2, I can tell you how Hox genes regulate DNA not only fruit flies but also in vertebrates such as mammals and even humans. “Although much of Hox genes remains to be seen, our work is a big step forward,” – said Richard Mann.