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Insight into the role of DNA packaging proteins called histones in a cell's genetic memory

18 January 2020


Moving house is a lot of hassle. Everything has to be packed up and put away, then unpacked in the new location so that life can get back to normal. In the same way, cells need to ‘pack up’ all their DNA when they get ready to divide, then unpack it and re-establish normal patterns of gene activity again afterwards. It’s thought that cells use specially marked DNA packaging proteins called histones to ‘remember’ which genes should be on or off. The yeast cells in this video have altered patterns of histone marks at a gene making a green fluorescent protein (GFP). While most of the cells in this video ‘remember’ whether or not they’re making GFP after they’ve divided, one of them ‘forgets’ and switches from grey to green. By tweaking the histone marks and seeing what happens, researchers are starting to figure out the genetic ‘memory’ in cells.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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