The FANTOM Consortium for Genome Exploration Research Group and Karolinska Institutet announce the publication of “Antisense Transcription in the Mammalian Genome” in Science, September 2nd 2005.
It has been known for over half a century that our genetic material occurs as a double strand of DNA molecules. Only one of these strands – the so-called sense strand - encodes for proteins, the building blocks of our cells that in turn make up our bodies. Then what about the other DNA strand – the antisense strand - can it also exert functions? The answer is yes, it can produce so-called antisense genes that are read in our cells in the opposite direction of the real – sense - genes. This phenomenon has previously been regarded as rare, but scientists now show that it is actually the rule rather than the exception. More importantly, these antisense genes are now shown to be extensively used to modulate the expression of the conventional - sense – genes in our cells. Antisense genes are therefore likely to participate in the control of many, perhaps all, cell and body function.
These findings are also of interest because synthetic – man made - antisense molecules have been widely used to inhibit conventional genes, including applications as anti-viral and anti-cancer drugs, which are currently on the market or in clinical trials. It can now be argued that this same principle already has been used by nature on a massive scale.
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