Professor’s publication recognized in Biochemistry journal’s top 10

April 22, 2011 | Research, UToday
By Kate Wente



An article written by Dr. Robert M. Blumenthal, UT professor of medical microbiology and immunology, was one of the 10 most-accessed articles of 2010 in the prestigious journal Biochemistry.

The article titled “Coordinated Chromatin Control: Structural and Functional Linkage of DNA and Histone Methylation,” reviewed the current state of epigenetics, which is the study of changes in DNA that do not involve mutation, and addressed key questions in some recent studies on the topic.

“We’ve known for decades that mutations in a person’s DNA can cause cancer and other diseases,” Blumenthal said. “More recently, researchers have learned that the chemical marks that are put on DNA and on histone proteins, which stick to the DNA, also matter a great deal. Our cells use these marks to turn genes on or off on a long-term basis, and changes in the pattern of these marks can lead to disease just like mutations can.”

According to Blumenthal, now the biggest question is identifying the very first step in turning a gene off for the long-term.

By doing a comprehensive review of current knowledge in this article with a colleague at Emory University, Blumenthal said he hoped to set the stage for additional research on the effects of DNA and histone modification.

Blumenthal said he only found out about his top 10 ranking when the journal posted its annual list of the most-accessed articles.

“They didn’t send any special notification to the authors, so I had no idea; I almost fell out of my chair,” he said.

Blumenthal, who also is the director of the Program in Bioinformatics and Proteomics/Genomics, has had his work cited more than 2,700 times, with one article alone cited more than 300 times. He has brought in more than $3.5 million in research funding to the University, and last year was one of the recipients of the UT Outstanding Researcher Award.

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