Scientists decode mystery sequences involved in gene regulation
Every cell in an organism’s body has the same copy of DNA, yet different cells do different things; for example, some function as brain cells, while others form muscle tissue. How can the same DNA make different things happen? A major step forward is being announced today that has implications for our understanding of many genetically-linked diseases, such as autism.
Scientists know that much of what a gene does and produces is regulated after it is turned on. A gene first produces a molecule called RNA, to which tiny proteins called RNA binding proteins (RBPs) bind and control its fate. For instance, some of these proteins cut out parts of the RNA molecule so that it makes a particular protein, while other RBPs help destroy the RNA before it even produces a protein.
But these mechanisms are not well understood because the RNA sequences, which the RBPs bind to, have been so difficult to decipher. To fully understand gene regulation (and disregulation, as in the case of disease), scientists have needed to employ advanced lab techniques and data analysis to identify the patterns of the RNA sequences.
This gap in knowledge motivated a team of researchers co-led by Senior Fellow Tim Hughes (University of Toronto and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) to produce the first-ever compendium of RNA-binding sequences, which was published in Nature on July 11, 2013.
Entry filed under: Biotechnology News and Info from Canadian Universities. Tags: gene regulation.