Gene expression is tightly controlled to ensure proteins are not inappropriately produced. The expression status of genes is inherited but can be altered when a cell divides. In the March issue of Nature Immunology, scientists now show that the expression status of genes can be altered even in the absence of cell division. Ronald Schwartz and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health report that the normally silent gene, Il2, which encodes an immune protein called interleukin 2, can be expressed within minutes of T cell activation. In a process named DNA demethylation, the Il2 gene becomes accessible to cell machinery that converts the genetic code into interleukin 2. Because this active process occurs in the absence of cell division, it helps explain how immune cells can respond quickly to infection.
Ronald H. Schwartz
NIAID, National Institutes of Health
Tel: +1 301 496 1257
Additional contact for comment on paper:
Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology
University of Edinburgh, UK
Tel: +44 131 650 5670
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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