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Go to Bed: Sleep Cycles Dictate Gene Translation

There’s an appropriate time for everything, even RNA translation, it appears. Researchers have made a surprising discovery about how the instructions carried by DNA inform the production of the proteins, enzymes, and other chemicals that make our bodies tick. According to a report in the journal Science, the function of RNA polymerase — the enzyme that translates information encoded into DNA into instructions for the building blocks of life — is subject to change on predictable daily cycles, like the circadian sleep schedule.

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A study of mouse liver cells demonstrated to researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center that cells have different receptors for different gene suppressing agents — some of which are active during the day, and others that activate only during the night. This new insight is key to understanding how sleep and waking influence gene activation cycles, and what those activation cycles may have to tell us about the important but ill-understood role circadian rhythms play in governing the functions of our bodies.

“What we ended up discovering was that RNA polymerase II initiation is circadian on a genome-wide level,” says Joseph Takahashi, the lead author of the study. That gives researchers some clues to the next step of their study: Using what they’ve learned to identify what causes genes to pause and restart at different times of day. That could give researchers a new way to turn genes on and off that use mechanisms already present in the body to their own advantage, and, of course, to learn how circadian rhythms affect gene expression in humans, rather than mice.

(via PhysOrg)

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