JAN 30, 2016 06:49 AM PST

Genetic Control of the Notochord

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Before the spinal cord, there is the notochord. Development of the notochord is essential for forming the nervous system and numerous other structures. In a new study from New York University, scientist Anna Di Gregorio and her team of researchers looked at Ciona species, also known as the sea squirt, to study the driving forces behind gene expression in the notochord.
 
Notochord cis-regulatory module (CRMs) control gene expression in the notochord, but no CRMs have ever been characterized in humans. Gregorio chose the Ciona for her study because of its “tractable notochord and simplified genome.”
 
Ciona


For 14 Ciona notochord CRMs, Gregorio and her team studied the following:
  • Minimal sequences of DNA needed for function
  • Whether minimal notochord sequences are predictive of CRMs from the entire genome
  • How Ciona species differ in CRM sequence variety
  • How Ciona species differ in CRM sequence variety from other chordates (mice, zebrafish)
An unexpected observation has Gregorio excited about the potential to make her Ciona studies especially relevant to humans:
 

"While we were analyzing the CRMs of Ciona, we discovered that they are similar to notochord CRMs that had been previously identified in vertebrates," said Gregorio. "This finding is significant because it indicates that this research is not limited to Ciona but extends to other chordates, and most likely humans."

 
Their results also identified two transcription factors as binders of CRMs and as responsible for activating certain genes:
  • Brachyury
  • Foxa2
Again, these transcription factors were found in other chordates, like mice. Although the human genome is much more complex than that of Ciona, the results from Gregorio’s study are likely to carry over to her studies of human CRMs, which she plans to explore.
 
"The ability to identify mutations in notochord CRMs could enable us to predict the occurrence of birth defects, and eventually CRMs could be used as therapeutic targets to correct them," Gregorio said the implications for humans.
 
For more about the notochord in human development:
 

Source: New York University
 
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 03, 2018
Neuroscience
DEC 03, 2018
Genes Involved In Dementia Identified
Genetic factors have also been recognized as a critical contributor for dementia and identifying these genes will eventually allow for gene-specific therapeutics to be developed. Although sci...
DEC 22, 2018
Videos
DEC 22, 2018
Using Genomics to Fight Cancer
Genetic sequencing can help clinicians decide on the best treatment for individual patients....
DEC 24, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 24, 2018
Searching for the Secret of Planarians' Regenerative Abilities
There's nothing particularly striking about planarians on first glance, but they can regrow their whole body from a bit of tail....
JAN 02, 2019
Videos
JAN 02, 2019
Genetic Data May Improve the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder
Learn more about how genetics may help clinicians treat alcohol use disorder....
JAN 03, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 03, 2019
Why the Tuberculosis Bacterium Sickens Some but not Others
Incredibly, around 20% of the global population is infected with the microbe that causes TB, but only about 10% show any signs of illness....
JAN 05, 2019
Videos
JAN 05, 2019
Photorespiration Shortcut Boosts Crop Yield
Most crops on earth don't photosynthesize efficiently; they sometimes use a wasteful cellular pathway called photorespiration....
Loading Comments...