Because the function of cells is affected by the activity of cellular genes and metabolism, researchers have been assessing the scope of the interactions. Metabolism concerns
the breakdown of molecules to generate energy for the body as well as the production of the chemical compounds needed by the cells.
With metabolic functions, the genes can influence differences within individual cells. Here one gene can switch on or switch off another gene and this can be influenced by external stimuli (what are called epigenetic changes.) One such influencer is the food we eat — the combination of sugars, amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins affects genes.
Researchers looked at yeast for the study because the single-celled fungi can be used to model different processes. Yeasts grow fast, allowing multiple studies to be run in relatively quick succession.
it was found that varying nutrients, and thus metabolic processes and the metabolites produced, influenced nine out of 10 genes. Some of these changes were significant, leading to genes behaving very differently.
The implications of the research affect health and nutrition, as well as the way the body responds to cancer and to medication. This may lead to nutritional recommendations to go hand-in-hand with drug therapy, for example. Of course studies on yeasts do not necessarily mean the same effects will be shown with people, but they do indicate an interesting line of future inquiry.
The research is published in
the journal Nature Microbiology
. The study is titled “The metabolic background is a global player in Saccharomyces gene expression epistasis.”