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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

Force triggers gene expression by stretching chromatin

How genes in our DNA are expressed into traits within a cell is a complicated mystery with many players, the main suspects being chemical. However, a new study by University of Illinois researchers and collaborators in China has demonstrated that external mechanical force can directly regulate gene expression. The study also identified the pathway that conveys the force from the outside of the cell into the nucleus.

University of Illinois awarded $8M from NIH to study nuclear structure

For years genome-mapping technology has understood DNA as a linear code, but that’s not how it exists in the cell: it’s tangled up in 3D inside the nucleus, with higher- and lower-density areas. Moreover, it exists in the fourth dimension as well—gene clusters can shift their positions over time. But what does this differential positioning within nuclei imply, and what does it mean when it changes?

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