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!
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Information Technology
05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences