Sylvester Researcher Contributes to Study Linking Molecular Factor with Inflammatory Response

A genetics researcher at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has contributed to a multi-center study linking a molecular factor with the body’s inflammatory response.

“If we can find a way to inhibit this response, physicians might be able to address the underlying inflammation that can lead to cancer, heart problems, allergies and other types of diseases,” said Ramin Shiekhattar, Ph.D., Director of the Cancer Epigenetics Research Program, and Chief of the Division of Cancer Genomics at Sylvester.

Shiekhattar, the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics Professor, is co-author of a new laboratory study, led by Northwestern University professors Ali Shilatifard, Ph.D., and Ashley R. Woodfin, Ph.D., that was published recently in Cell. Alessandro Gardini, Ph.D., former associate scientist at Sylvester, also contributed to the Cell studyPAF1, a molecular regulator of promoter-proximal pausing by RNA Polymerase II.”

Shiekhattar said the new study focuses on the role of the PAF1 molecular factor in transcribing the RNA enzymes that send instructions for expressing human genes. “With almost half the genes in the human body, there is a PAF1-related pause during this transcription process, like a speed bump in the road,” he said. “Removing the PAF1 results in stronger activation of genes, giving us a better understanding of another molecular process related to disease.”

Shiekhattar added that mutations to PAF1 have been linked to the inflammatory response of the immune system. “Our team’s findings could point to a new direction for clinical research in the future,” he said.

Last October, Shiekhattar and Gardini were co-authors of another study, published in Molecular Cell, which focused on the genetic transcription process in which messenger RNAs (mRNA) are constructed from DNA to create proteins. That study also highlighted the importance of RNA polymerase II pausing, a critical step that provides a barrier to genetic transcription.

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