For many years, DNA and proteins have been viewed as the real movers and shakers in genomic studies, with RNA seen as little more than a messenger that shuttles information between the two. But researchers from Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered that small RNA molecules called microRNAs regulate thousands of human genes--more than one third of the genomes protein-coding regions. In other words, a class of molecule once relegated to the sidelines may be one of the principal players in regulating cellular mechanisms.
"Its exciting to see how many genes are regulated by microRNAs. We now know that this type of gene control is much more widespread than previously appreciated," says Whitehead Member and MIT professor of biology David Bartel.
MicroRNAs interrupt a genes ability to make protein. These tiny, single-stranded pieces of RNA are newcomers to biological research. It wasnt until 2000 that researchers even knew that microRNAs existed in humans. Now, in the January 14 edition of the journal Cell, Benjamin Lewis, a graduate student working jointly with Whiteheads Bartel and MIT associate professor of biology Christopher Burge, provides the first evidence that microRNAs influence a large percentage of lifes functions.
David Cameron | EurekAlert!
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