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Researchers uncover mechanism that governs cell specialization

November 12, 2017

Successful cell differentiation requires the presence of both master-regulating and super-regulating proteins. "If you don't turn both of those keys, cell differentiation doesn't work properly," said Dr. Baker.

One of these super-regulating proteins, called E-protein Daughterless (Da), binds with Helix-Loop-Helix proteins to activate them. Da also triggers expression of a protein called Extramacrochaetae (Emc), which turns the Helix-Loop-Helix proteins off. Through this feedback-loop mechanism, Da and Emc allow Helix-Loop-Helix proteins to function during specific times during fruit-fly development to create the fly's specialized cells.

Similar findings seem to apply to the Helix-Loop-Helix proteins that are present in human cells, where they are involved in cancer as well as in the differentiation of stem cells into specialized tissues. "We would expect that there will be people in the stem cell field that would be quite interested in what we have found," Dr. Baker said.

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine