The discovery made by Dr. François Robert's team confirms the
universality of an essential cellular process
MONTREAL, Jan. 26, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Dr. François Robert, molecular
biology researcher at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
(IRCM), and his team confirmed that the phosphorylation of RNA
polymerase II, a key enzyme in the process of gene expression, is
uniform across all genes. This discovery, which contributes to numerous
debates on the topic within the scientific community, will be published
tomorrow in the scientific journal Molecular Cell.
Phosphorylation, or the addition of phosphate to a molecule, is one of
the most important regulation mechanisms for cells. It allows, among
other things, to control interactions between proteins.
"During transcription, the first step in gene expression, RNA polymerase
II is abundantly phosphorylated," explains Dr. Robert, Director of the
Chromatin and Genomic Expression research unit at the IRCM. "This
allows for the coordination between transcription and the other steps
in the process of gene expression."
By examining a small number of genes, certain pioneering studies that
have been long-accepted in the field had shown that phosphorylation of
RNA polymerase II always occurred in the same prescribed pattern during
transcription. However, recent genome-wide analyses challenged this
idea by suggesting that this process was not uniform across different
genes. "The latter model is very controversial, because it is unclear
how, or why, transcription could work in such radically different ways
from one gene to the next," says Alain Bataille, doctoral student and
first co-author of the study.
By using modern functional genomic tools, the team of researchers
confirmed the former hypothesis that transcription operates in a
uniform way across virtually all genes.
"The identity of enzymes responsible for adding and removing phosphate
groups to RNA polymerase II is another controversial topic among
scientists," adds Dr. Célia Jeronimo, postdoctoral fellow in Dr.
Robert's laboratory and first co-author of the article. "Our research
also allowed us to better understand the respective role of these
"The results of our studies represent a major contribution to the
scientific community in the understanding of different cellular
processes within the field of molecular biology," concludes Dr. Robert.
The research project was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health
Research (CIHR). "CIHR is proud to have supported this study, which has
settled an important fundamental question in genetic regulation," said
Dr. Paul Lasko, Scientific Director of the Institute of Genetics. "I
applaud Dr. Robert and his team on their discovery. As misregulation
of transcription often underlies genetic disease and cancer,
breakthroughs such as this provide critical insights that will one day
lead to new treatments that will improve the health of Canadians." For
more information on this discovery, please refer to the article summary
published online by Molecular Cell: http://www.cell.com/molecular-cell/abstract/S1097-2765(11)00951-8.
About Dr. François Robert
François Robert obtained his PhD in molecular biology from the
Université de Sherbrooke. He is Associate IRCM Research Professor,
Director of the Systems Biology and Medicinal Chemistry research
program, and Director of the Chromatin and Genomic Expression research
unit. Dr. Robert is an associate researcher-professor in the Department
of Medicine (accreditation in molecular biology) at the Université de
Montréal. He is also adjunct professor in the Department of Biology at
the Université de Sherbrooke.
About the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
Founded in 1967, the IRCM (www.ircm.qc.ca) is currently comprised of 36 research units in various fields, namely
immunity and viral infections, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,
cancer, neurobiology and development, systems biology and medicinal
chemistry. It also houses three specialized research clinics, seven
core facilities and three research platforms with state-of-the-art
equipment. The IRCM employs 425 people and is an independent
institution affiliated with the Université de Montréal. The IRCM clinic
is associated to the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal
(CHUM). The IRCM also maintains a long-standing association with McGill
SOURCE Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
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