Uniformity, or singleness of form, is not unique to humans but a general property of life. Biologists have long pondered how this feature is produced in the face of such great variation in genetics as well as environmental conditions.
Northwestern University researchers now have identified a type of molecule that plays a specific role in maintaining uniformity: a little snippet of RNA called a microRNA. They found that a microRNA called miR-7 is critical to the robustness of the molecular network that helps regulate uniformity.
The findings are published online by the journal Cell and also are featured in a Cell podcast: http://www.cell.com/. This knowledge could lead to a better understanding of the workings of cancer cells, which do not act in controllable, uniform ways.
The Northwestern research builds on an idea that originated in the 1940's: Molecules within cells of the body work together in networks, each molecule interconnected with others.
"When something is changed, say the genetic sequence of a molecule or the temperature of the organism, the network responds to compensate for the change and keep things intact," said Richard W. Carthew, Owen L. Coon Professor of Molecular Biology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. Carthew led the research. "This design is similar to the principle that engineers use to design safety features into products."
There are hundreds of different types of microRNAs in animals. Their function is to dampen or shut down the production of proteins in the body. The Carthew group found one of these microRNAs, miR-7, dampens production of proteins that work in the same networks as miR-7.
In a study of Drosophila, when the researchers eliminated miR-7, the networks remained intact but only under uniform environmental conditions. When the researchers perturbed the environment by modulating the temperature, the networks failed to keep things intact, and animals suffered from developmental defects. If the microRNA was present, however, the networks resisted the temperature fluctuation, and animals were normal and healthy.
MicroRNAs, found in all plants and animals, may have evolved as tiny buffers within multicellular organisms to allow the remarkable unity of form in a constantly changing environment.
"This idea has health implications as well," said Carthew. "Cancer cells are notoriously heterogeneous and do not act in controllable ways. Interestingly, microRNAs are among the most frequently mutated targets in cancers, leading some to speculate that their absence is linked to cancer's heterogeneous behavior."
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie
Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy