Keyword Tag Sort by

Categories: Genomics Desoxyribo Nucleotides DNA Ribosomes

Scientists Discover New Genetic Sub-code

Biologists and computer scientists from ETH Zurich and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) joined forces to chase possible sub-codes in genomic information. The study led to the identification of novel sequence biases and their role in the control of genomic expression.

Each cell of an organism contains a copy of its genome, which is a sequence of desoxyribo nucleotides, also called DNA. The cell is able to translate some of the coding sequences into different proteins, which are necessary for an organism’s growth, the repair of some tissues and the provision of energy.  

For this translation work, the cell follows a decoding procedure provided by the "genetic code", which tells what protein is made from a given sequence. The researchers from ETH and Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) now identified a new sub-code that determines at which rate given products must be made by the cell. This information has several interesting implications. First, it provides novel insights into how the decoding machinery works. Secondly, and more pragmatically, it makes possible to read information about gene expression rates directly from genomic sequences, whereas up to now, this information could only be obtained through laborious and expensive experimental approaches, such as microarrays.  

"A cell must respond very quickly to injuries such as DNA damage and to potent poisons such as arsenic. The new sub-code enables us to know which genes are turned-on quickly after these insults and which are best expressed slowly. One benefit of this study is that we now can get this information using only analysis of the coding sequence", said Gina Cannarozzi, co-author of the study and Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Computational Science of ETH Zurich.  

Insight into functioning of ribosomes 
Additionally, the new sub-code provides insight into cellular processes at the molecular level. In every living cell, the translation allowing the production of proteins takes place at specialised factories, the ribosomes. The discovery of this novel sub-code will therefore also provide more information about the functioning of these ribosomes. Indeed, all the data gathered up to now indicate that these factories recycle their own components, the tRNAs, to optimize the speed of protein synthesis. This discovery of a new way to regulate translation could potentially be exploited to more efficiently produce therapeutic agents and research reagents. For example, many therapeutic agents, such as insulin, are produced by expressing a protein in a foreign host such as Escherichia coli or the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The new sub-code can be now used to rewrite the information such as to optimize in a much more rational manner the amount of product delivered by the foreign host.  

Cannarozzi G et al. A Role for Codon Order in Translation Dynamics. Cell 141, 355-367, April 16, 2010. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2010.02.036

Contact: ETH Zurich Editorial Office, Fax: +41 44 632 17 16, E-mail:

Source: ETH Zürich - Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB)

Photos (1)  [ view all photos ]

A sub-code in the DNA enables scientists to know which genes are turned-on quickly and which are best expressed slowly. (ETH Zürich)

Related News:

Genetic mutations warn of skin cancer risk 1 April 2014, 05:59
New high-risk cancer causing mutation identified for melanoma developmentResearchers have...

Random walks on DNA 19 April 2013, 04:13
Scientists have revealed how a bacterial enzyme has evolved an energy-efficient method to move...

Sensor of bacteria and viruses on high alert at the site of action 16 January 2013, 05:51
Researchers show: Sophisticated transport system helps immune cells quickly detect...

New Noninvasive Test for Colorectal Cancer Shows Promise 17 October 2012, 04:08
Screening test measures DNA changes in three genes and detects occult blood. Test shows 83...

Biologists Describe Details of New Mechanism for Molecular... 10 October 2012, 07:41
“Molecular sled” carries viral enzyme along DNA to find and interact with targets; findings...

Gene Link to Multiple Sclerosis Explains Drug Side Effects 10 July 2012, 14:25
The biological role of a gene variant implicated in multiple sclerosis (MS) has been determined...

Researchers Find Gold Nanoparticles Capable of ‘Unzipping’ DNA 20 June 2012, 09:19
New research from North Carolina State University finds that gold nanoparticles with a slight...

UCLA scientists discover how key enzyme involved in aging, cancer... 20 June 2012, 04:34
UCLA biochemists have mapped the structure of a key protein–RNA complex that is required for...

Researchers achieve RNA interference, in a lighter package 4 June 2012, 10:36
Pared-down nucleic acid nanoparticle poses less risk of side effects, offers better...

Researchers Make Breakthrough in the cause of Premature Birth 29 May 2012, 07:42
A significant breakthrough on why women go into labour early or develop the disease...

Credits / Source:

A sub-code in the DNA enables scientists to know which genes are turned-on quickly and which are best expressed slowly. (ETH Zürich)