Stress Turns On Genes Programmed To Remain Inactive in Human Body

RoseTracker| Researchers from Dr. Klaus Hansen’s group at BRIC, University of Copenhagen have shown that stress-activating factors can control our genes and ultimately our health by turning on genes that should be left off in our body.

It’s logical to think that all genes should be on for proper body functioning, but this is incorrect. Even brief changes in gene activation can be disastrous for both foetal development and adult bodies.

“For example, one could imagine that prolonged stress causes nerve cells in the brain to produce hormones and other signalling molecules they do not normally produce and this can disturb normal brain function,” says Simmi Gehani, a PhD-student on the Hansen research team.

Specifically, Dr. Hansen’s scientists are studying the PRC2 and its relationship with protective complexes that bind to histones.

Their new results show that the protective complexes are lost and selected genes turned on when cells are exposed to external stress factors. The reason why the complexes are lost is that the stress factors instruct an enzyme named MSK to attach another chemical group — a phosphate group — to the histones neighbouring the methyl group. The phosphate group neutralizes the effect of the methyl group and turns specific genes on. via Science Daily

Both environmental and social factors contribute to stress in our lives. This work is another advancement in understanding just why stress is now regarded as one of the major diseases of the developed world.