Regulation of a family of brain proteins known as bromodomain and extra-terminal domain containing transcription regulators (BETs) plays a key role in normal cognition and behavior, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published advanced online on September 21 and in print October 19 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
The Mount Sinai study focuses on epigenetics, the study of changes in the action of human genes caused by molecules that regulate when, where and to what degree our genetic material is activated, rather than focusing on genetic changes in the DNA code we inherit from our parents.
While scientists have traditionally focused on finding individual genes responsible for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), recent research has found links between epigenetic regulation and ASD in human patients. Such regulation derives, in part, from the function of specialized protein complexes that bind to specific DNA sequences and either encourage or shut down the expression of a given gene.
Mount Sinai researchers found that BETs, a family of epigenetic regulators that bind to many different genes and contribute to the copying of these genes into messenger RNA, the template used by the cell to make proteins, play a key role in the regulation of normal neuronal development and function. The Mount Sinai study was conducted using a new type of pharmacological compound that does not inactivate BET proteins but, rather, prevents them from binding to the genes... read more