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Genes & Development

Heart disease, leukemia linked to dysfunction in nucleus

We put things into a container to keep them organized and safe. In cells, the nucleus has a similar role: keeping DNA protected and intact within an enveloping membrane. But a new study by the lab of Martin Hetzer, detailed in the November 2, 2016, issue of Genes & Development, reveals that this cellular container acts on its contents to influence gene expression. Using a suite of molecular biology technologies, Hetzer, first author Arkaitz Ibarra and colleagues discovered that two proteins, which sit in the nuclear envelope, together with the membrane- spanning complexes they form, actively associate with stretches of DNA to trigger expression of key genes. Better understanding these higher-level functions could provide insight into diseases that appear to be related to dysfunctional nuclear membrane components, such as leukemia, heart disease and aging disorders.

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Nature Chemical Biology

Small but mighty: tiny proteins with big roles in biology

We all know how hard it is to find something small like a dropped contact lens that blends into the background. It’s similarly tough for biologists to find tiny proteins against the complex background of the cell. But, increasingly, scientists are learning that such micro- proteins, which are overlooked by traditional detection methods, also have important biological roles to play. Using a new microprotein detection strategy, Salk Professor Alan Saghatelian, research associate Jiao Ma and collaborators discovered a human microprotein involved in one of the cell’s key housekeeping tasks: clearing out genetic material that’s no longer needed. The new molecule, dubbed NoBody, could provide a better understanding of how the levels of genes, including disease genes, are controlled in the cell. The paper appears in the December 5, 2016, issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

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