Are you up to speed with all the ground-breaking studies in the world of epigenetics?  Isn’t it fascinating how gene function can be altered by more than just changing the DNA sequence?

Although DNA sequence is still considered the basic blueprint for life, epigenetic modifications provide another complex layer of information, thus representing a relatively new avenue for the discovery of control mechanisms. As research continues to explore and unravel such enthralling mysteries, this blog briefly discusses epigenetics, one of its causative enzymes and a few detection techniques.

 

What is ‘epigenetics’ and why is it important?

Epigenetics refers to the study of biological mechanisms that switch genes on (active) and off (inactive) without altering the actual DNA sequence. This essentially affects how genes are read by cells, and subsequently how proteins are produced.

Did you know that aspects of your lifestyle can have an impact on your unborn child? This is because epigenetic changes may be reflected at various stages throughout an individual’s life and can also be passed to later generations. Studies have shown that children born during the period of the Dutch famine from 1944-1945 were more susceptible to health problems following maternal exposure to famine during early pregnancy. However, what was more surprising was that these children’s own offspring, who were born years after the famine were also significantly underweight. It seemed as if the famine had in some way “scarred” the victims’ DNA.

This, and other observations suggest that epigenetic changes can be influenced by lifestyle and environmental factors. As both epigenetic mechanisms and lifestyle are modifiable, there is a huge opportunity for epigeneticist to determine how closely they are dependent on each other. While such modifications are required for normal development and health, they can also be responsible for some disease states such as certain types of tumours, inflammation, ageing and mental health disorders.

 

JMJD2C

There are three common systems that can initiate and sustain epigenetic changes- DNA methylation, histone modification and small regulatory RNAs. Disrupting any of these can cause abnormal activation or silencing of genes. JMJD2C histone H3 demethylase is one such enzyme known to cause epigenetic alterations by modifying histone protein at specific lysine residues removing a methyl group. Initially, JMJD2C was found to be involved in embryonic development and stem cell regulation. Later, its role in tumour formation and development was observed and studied in detail. Chromosomal aberrations and increased transcriptional expression of JMJD2C gene are associated with certain types of cancers like esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

 

Detection techniques

Selective inhibition of JMJD2C could represent a possible therapeutic approach to treat tumour, which stresses the need to have reliable assays to measure this enzyme. In this poster, we have compared three assay technologies- HTRF (Cisbio), LANCE Ultra (PerkinElmer) and AlphaLISA (PerkinElmer) for the measurement of JMJD2C histone H3 demethylase activity. All of them can be used for screening in a drug discovery setting, and choice of assay mostly depends upon the availability of a suitable reader system.

Why not read our poster which describes these different techniques in practice?

Are you already working on JMJD2C or a similar epigenetic enzyme and need help with your project? Our scientists are experienced in a plethora of technologies and can help you develop robust bioassays for your study.  Follow the link to get in touch now or just drop us an email: info@aureliabio.com

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