Mutating proteins

  • July 25, 2012
Mutating proteins

A paper co-authored by Gates Scholar Guilhem Chalancon shows how bioinformatics approaches can shed new light on the way our bodies produce proteins, which could help design therapeutic strategies for tissue-specific diseases such as cancer.

Scientists have used bioinformatics approaches to shed new light on the way our bodies produce proteins, which could help design therapeutic strategies for tissue-specific diseases such as cancer.

Next-Generation Sequencing technologies have enabled researchers to discover that most human genes are alternatively spliced, a mechanism that allows our genes to produce multiple versions of a protein while starting from a single DNA sequence.  This means the total number of different proteins expressed in our body exceeds by far the over 25,000 produced by our genome.

Very recent studies shed light on the importance of some of these protein versions that are only expressed in certain tissues of our body. One of the studies, co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Guilhem Chalancon, is published in the prestigious journal Molecular Cell and has been featured on the MRC LMB website and in Nature Reviews in Genetics.

The researchers found that tissue-specific alternative splicing not only results in multiple versions of human proteins, but also impacts on the way they interact with each other. Moreover, researchers found that genes that undergo tissue-specific alternative splicing have often mutated in different cancer types.

The researchers used bioinformatics to mine publicly available data. Guilhem [2011], who is doing a PhD in Biological Science at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, says: “This approach allowed us to pinpoint biological evidence that would be very challenging to characterise otherwise.”

More importantly, he says, it may lead to clinical implications in the future. “Tracking mutations in these portions of genes that are tissue-specific may help to understand better tissue-specific diseases such as cancer and could guide drug development for such diseases,” he says.

More information

Picture credit: Dream designs and www.freedigitalphotos.net

Latest News

Knowledge gap on zoonotic disease transmission highlighted

The impact of climate change on migration patterns, particularly in areas which depend on agriculture and livestock, could affect zoonotic disease transmission yet little research has been done to date. A new study, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar and Veterinary Science PhD student Dorien Braam [2018], looks at the research that currently exists, but calls […]

Addressing climate change in words and action

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has called for the US federal government to establish a national, robust and legally binding net-zero target that emphasises comprehensiveness, equity and clarity on the role of offsets.  In an opinion piece in Arizona Republic, Stephen Lezak and his co-authors, including Kate Gallego, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, which has done […]

Gates Cambridge mentors: forging bonds and giving back

The Gates Cambridge Scholars Council has been running a mentoring programme since 2018 as part of an effort to bring alumni and scholars closer together, build a stronger sense of community and to give mentors a chance to give back. This year has seen a big increase in the number of mentors coming forward, with […]

Scholar joins COP26 net-zero initiative

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been appointed as a climate change consultant on a new consortium working on a net-zero vision for the world ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference [COP26] in November. Ramit Debnath will be working on designing the India net-zero profile chapter of the vision along with in-country experts. The international […]