Fishing Line, Beach Balls and Nucleosomes: DNA Reading Lessons

January 18, 2006

Madeline Vann
Phone: 504-247-1425

Imagine packing a length of fishing line that stretches from Lafayette to New Orleans inside a beach ball, and then imagine trying to read information written on specific segments of the fishing line. Tulane University researcher Tom Bishop is slated to receive a $1 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences over five years to do just that as he studies the role that nucleosomes play in packing approximately two meters of DNA into human cells.

Nucleosomes are protein-DNA complexes that fold up DNA inside the cell nucleus of human and other multi-celled organisms. The folding solves a packing problem but also restricts access to the genetic information stored in DNA. This affects the cellular processes of transcription, replication, regulation and repair.

"The human genome has been sequenced. We now live in a post-genomic era in which the fundamental importance of DNA sequence is widely appreciated," says Bishop, assistant professor of environmental health sciences. "But that's just the first chapter of the genome story. Access to and utilization of genetic information is the next chapter. Genome projects tell us what the information is, but they don't tell us how this information is stored, accessed or used in cells."

Bishop will focus on nucleosomes containing sequences of DNA involved in hormone regulation that also have implications for the development, treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000