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Shiu lab shows interactions in a gene silencing mechanism

April 24, 2015

MSUD proteins (yellow) interact at the nuclear periphery.

MSUD proteins (yellow) interact at the nuclear periphery. (Image courtesy: P. Shiu)

Many organisms, including humans, maintain cellular mechanisms for detecting and silencing (“turning off”) undesired genes from invaders. Besides being an important natural cellular defense mechanism, gene silencing has great potential as a therapeutic device to shut down problematic genes involved in diseases.

The fungus Neurospora crassa has an efficient and novel gene silencing mechanism, called Meiotic Silencing by Unpaired DNA (MSUD), that detects and silences unpaired genes during sexual development. Dr. Patrick Shiu (a fungal geneticist in the Division of Biological Sciences) and others discovered the MSUD mechanism and have since identified several of the key molecular components that control this process.

Now, in an article published in the April issue of Genetics, the Shiu lab reports its latest findings from a series of fluorescence imaging experiments they used to track six MSUD proteins and their interactions. The results show that these proteins interact to form a complex in the region immediately outside the nucleus. The authors hypothesize that this protein complex acts to selectively identify and destroy the messenger RNAs produced from an unpaired (and potentially problematic) gene as they leave the nucleus.

flask with a furry orange colored substance in it.

Neurospora crassa, the orange bread mold used in this study, is a popular model organism for genetics research.

“This is one of the most comprehensive examinations of silencing protein interactions to date, and the results could shed light on how complex formation may occur in this and related defense mechanisms,” said Shiu.

Read the study: Decker LM, Boone EC, Xiao H, Shanker BS, Boone SF, Kingston SL, Lee SA, Hammond TM, and Shiu PKT. 2015. Complex formation of RNA silencing proteins in the perinuclear region of Neurospora crassa. Genetics 199(4):1017-1021.

Related research strengths:
Cell Biology, Genetics & Genomics, Molecular Biology