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The role of histone H3 methylation in cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Amir Eden
  • Institution: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Award Amount: £143,100 for 3 years from January 2013
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
The role of histone H3 methylation in cancer
Thousands of genes within our cells act as our blueprint, by determining everything that our cells do. The way that these genes work can sometimes be controlled by adding specific chemical groups or "tags" on to the genes, or to the proteins that act as their scaffolding. The addition of these tags can lead to an increase or decrease in the activity of genes, and adding the tags in different positions and patterns, in different places, leads to different effects. This often happens incorrectly in cancers, leading to abnormal gene activity, which can allow the cell to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a tumour. One such form of tagging is called DNA methylation, where the tag is a small molecule called a methyl group. Addition of too many of these methyl groups to genes is linked with tumour development.

Dr Eden and his team are studying methylation of a gene scaffolding protein, called histone H3. Methylating histone H3 seems to control whether the surrounding DNA is methylated or not. They have developed a system which allows them to study histone H3 methylation, and they will use their Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study the role this plays in changes that are associated with cancer. This will produce important new information about how the activity of key genes can go wrong in cancer.
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