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Study Suggests Actin is Critical in Genome Regulation During Nerve Cell Formation

ABU DHABI (UAE), January 2019 — A new study suggests for the first time that actin, a cytoskeleton protein found in the cell, is critical to regulating the genome — the genetic material of an organism — during the formation of "neurons" or nerve cells.

Piergiorgio Percipalle, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at New York University Abu Dhabi, led the study that was published recently in PLOS Genetics. It involved converting "fibroblasts" — cells that maintain connective tissues — with impaired actin expression into neurons to identify the role of actin in neurogenesis. The implication of the methodology together with the availability of fibroblasts not expressing actin is far reaching. It will enable researchers to understand novel concepts in genome regulation and, in the long term, model diseases to identify druggable targets.

"The technology we've applied in my lab has given us the opportunity to identify novel factors and pathways involved in the regulation of the mammalian genome during neurogenesis — the formation of neurons — and has a lot of potential for the development of personalized medicines," Dr. Percipalle said.


Neuronal cells induced from mouse embryonic fibroblasts. The cells were stained with DAPI and with an antibody against the neuronal marker synapsins and imaged by confocal microscopy. Image courtesy of Xie and Percipalle.

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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007846