By Sharon Dent, Ph.D., David Johnson, Ph.D., and Sarah Adai
Chromatin, the intertwined histone proteins and DNA that are packaged into chromosomes, has long been recognized as a gatekeeper to the underlying DNA template.
While chromatin is typically on the receiving end of the cell's intricate signaling pathways - culminating in the regulation of gene expression - evidence is emerging to give chromatin a previously unrecognized role: as a dynamic participant that transmits received signals back to other proteins to effect changes in cellular responses.
This week in the journal Cell, faculty from MD Anderson's Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis and Center for Cancer Epigenetics review a number of recent studies highlighting chromatin's role as both receiver and transmitter of signals in various cell functions.Review authors Sharon Dent, Ph.D. and David Johnson, Ph.D., highlight this growing area of research, which is relevant both for understanding basic cell regulation and for determining how signaling goes awry in diseases such as cancer.
Histone modifications: key players in chromatin signaling
Posttranslational modification of histones is one way that the cell regulates the packing and unpacking of chromatin, which in turn helps to determine whether a gene is activated or repressed.