Scientists uncover new DNA role in modifying gene function

For years, scientists have thought of DNA as a passive blueprint capable only of producing specific proteins through RNA transcription.

Now, research led by scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute has shown DNA can also act to fine-tune the activity of certain proteins known as nuclear receptors.

These new findings may make it possible to design therapies that could activate specific genes in a highly targeted manner in a number of important diseases including osteoporosis, obesity, autoimmune disease, and cancer.

The study was published April 10, 2011, in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

"This study offers the first direct evidence of what we now recognise as critically important interactions," said team leader Patrick R Griffin, PhD, chair of the Department of Molecular Therapeutics and director of the Translational Research Institute at Scripps Florida.

"This new understanding could lead to the development of ways to promote highly targeted activity, which is exactly what you need in order to produce safe and effective therapies," Griffin added.