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Lessons learned from yeast about human leukemia

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The trifecta of biological proof is to take a discovery made in a simple model organism like baker's yeast and track down its analogs or homologs in "higher" creatures right up the complexity scale to people, in this case, from yeast to fruit flies to humans. In a pair of related studies, scientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research have hit such a trifecta, closing a circle of inquiry that they opened over a decade ago.

Stowers investigator, Ali Shilatifard, Ph.D., and his team finally confirmed that the molecular mechanics of a key regulatory complex implicated in human leukemia, which Shilatifard had first identified in yeast, are the same on each rung of the evolutionary ladder, all the way from yeast to fruit flies to humans. In addition, the Stowers team, working closely with collaborators at the University of Michigan, revealed the common molecular shape at the center of the complex, which regulates gene expression through the methylation of histone H3, one of several DNA packaging proteins.

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