Every cell in our body contains several meters of DNA that must be folded in exactly the right way. This important process turns out to be entirely dependent on the binding of two proteins within the cell: cohesin (green) and CTCF (purple).
In cancer cells, the part of cohesin that should bind CTCF is often no longer functional. This is likely to cause these cancer cells to misfold their DNA. As a result of this work, it will now become possible to study more precisely how DNA folding contributes to the regulation of genes. Dr. Daniel Panne from the University of Leicester says that "the ability to abolish the interaction between cohesin and CTCF will also facilitate research towards understanding how genome folding contributes to numerous other aspects of genome function." Dr. Benjamin Rowland adds that "it is fascinating to see how this interaction between just a few proteins can determine how all of our DNA is folded inside the cell. It looks like we have encountered a basic principle that controls the folding of DNA throughout evolution."
Li, Y., Haarhuis, J.H.I., Cacciatore, Á.S. et al., The structural basis for cohesin-CTCF-anchored loops. Nature (2020) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1910-z
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