19. Reading Genetic Code

John T. Lis, Molecular Biology and Genetics, led research that confirmed one step in the process by which a cell reads the genetic code in its DNA in order to manufacture a protein. Within the nucleus of a cell, DNA is packed into folded structures—nucleosomes—that, in turn, form higher order structures. Using a fruit fly as a model, the researchers revealed that a protein complex known as FACT (Facilitates Chromatin Transcription) is positioned in living cells at sites where chromosomal DNA is unpacked so that its code can be read. The researchers call it “a sophisticated molecular machine” that is not completely understood. The same machinery is used whether genes are normally expressed genes or genes that contribute to disease. Also, since the process of gene expression is the same throughout the animal kingdom, the research applies to humans as well as to fruit flies.

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