Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Technique May Identify Novel Disease Genes at a Faster Clip

14.11.2003


Researchers have used ultraviolet light to “weld” a key regulatory protein to its RNA targets, creating a new tool that can be used to identify novel proteins involved in a variety of human diseases.



Using this technique, the researchers have identified an array of RNA molecules regulated by the RNA-binding protein, Nova, which has been implicated in an autoimmune neurodegenerative disease. The researchers believe their technique may help in finding the RNA targets of other proteins involved in neurological diseases, including the most prevalent form of mental retardation, the Fragile X syndrome.

Robert B. Darnell, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at The Rockefeller University, led the research team that reported its findings in the November 14, 2003, issue of the journal Science.


Darnell and his colleagues have been investigating the function of Nova, an RNA-binding protein that regulates alternative splicing. In alternative splicing, messenger RNA, carrying the blueprint for a protein from the cell’s genes, is processed in such a way that it can produce a number of slightly different proteins. Apart from its role in alternative splicing, the Nova protein is of great interest, said Darnell, because it is targeted by the immune system in the neurodegenerative disease, paraneoplastic opsoclonus myoclonus ataxia, which causes progressive loss of motor control.

“Previous work in our laboratory had revealed how Nova bound to RNA, and we had identified a couple of specific target RNAs in the brain,” said Darnell. “These studies led us to discover that Nova was the first mammalian splicing factor that was restricted to a particular tissue. We then really wanted to know what is the full array of RNAs that Nova binds to and regulates in the brain?”

According to Darnell, Nova is just one of a rapidly growing list of RNA-binding proteins that are being implicated in human diseases. Thus, a technique that can help identify the multiple RNA targets regulated by an RNA-binding protein could potentially aid in understanding the cause of many human diseases.

To facilitate identification of the target proteins, the scientists adapted a technique that had been used in the test tube to identify the targets of RNA-binding proteins. This technique involved irradiating molecules with ultraviolet light, which caused a cross-linking reaction that chemically bonded the protein with its RNA target. The bond is so tight that the molecules could be isolated and identified together.

Darnell and his colleagues made some enhancements that resulted in the development of their “cross-linking and immunoprecipitation” (CLIP) technique. The researchers began by irradiating intact mouse brains with UV light, seeking to weld together RNA-binding proteins and their RNA targets in living tissue. Following a technically demanding purification and analytical procedure, the researchers were able to pinpoint some 340 Nova CLIP “tags” — telltale pieces of Nova-bound RNA that identified the RNA target molecule and revealed where the Nova protein bound to it. The researchers verified that the tags represented functional Nova RNA targets by comparing their splicing in wild-type mice with knockout mice lacking Nova.

The striking splicing changes in the knockout mice, said Darnell, constituted proof that Nova is the central regulator of splicing in a whole set of RNA molecules found in the brain. “We’re finding that Nova is an extremely important factor—maybe the factor—that is responsible for neuronal splicing for some targets,” he said.

Their studies turned up another important observation: Nova does not act randomly. “Looking at these targets as a group, they have a tremendous biological coherence to them,” said Darnell. “Almost seventy percent of them are RNAs that have something to do with the neuronal synapse.” Synapses are the junctions between neurons. One third of the Nova synaptic RNA targets encode proteins involved in inhibiting neuronal function. Regulating neuronal inhibition plays a key role in the balance controlling nervous system function normally as well as in neurologic disorders such as epilepsy, said Darnell.

“These findings suggest that Nova has evolved to regulate a set of RNAs that have a coordinate function,” he said. “So, if you turn Nova function up or down, you’ll coordinately regulate a group of RNAs en masse.”

The success of the CLIP method in identifying Nova targets, said Darnell, suggests that it will find broad use in discovering targets of other RNA-binding proteins, including those involved in such diseases as Fragile X mental retardation. “The study of the fragile-X-syndrome protein has been stuck, because knowing it’s an RNA-binding protein doesn’t really tell you what it’s doing,” said Darnell. “The problem has been to identify the set of RNAs that it regulates. We and others have made some progress using other techniques, but CLIP should help solve this problem.”

CLIP has also revealed that Nova may play a previously unsuspected role besides regulating alternate splicing. “We found quite a few instances of CLIP tags that are not near alternative splice sites, but are at the beginning or end of an RNA,” said Darnell. “This suggests that there may be some brand new biology going on that we didn’t suspect.” This new form of regulation might be occurring as RNA’s information is being translated into a protein by the cell’s protein-making machinery, Darnell said.

Jim Keeley | HHMI

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cnidarians remotely control bacteria
21.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Immune cells may heal bleeding brain after strokes
21.09.2017 | NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary

21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cnidarians remotely control bacteria

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>