MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNAs that impact almost every aspect of biology. In recent years, they have been strongly implicated in stem cell biology, tissue and organism development, as well as human conditions ranging from mental disorders to cancer.
For the most part, miRNAs control gene expression of messenger RNA (mRNA) targets. Unlike mRNAs, which are translated into proteins, miRNAs function as short, untranslated molecules that regulate specific mRNAs through base-pairing interactions. Since miRNAs bind limited stretches of consecutive bases in mRNAs, identifying which mRNAs are targets of individual miRNAs has been a bottleneck of biomedical research, as researchers have had to rely largely on computational predictions.
Now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have identified the binding sites of these miRNAs in one of the foremost model organisms, C. elegans, using biochemical means to capture targeted mRNA sequences in vivo.
Argonaute proteins are key players in gene-silencing pathways; miRNAs are anchored into specific binding sites to guide Argonaute proteins to target mRNA molecules for silencing or destruction. By cross-linking interactions between the Argonaute protein bound to miRNA and mRNA duplexes, principal investigators Gene Yeo, PhD, assistant professor in UCSD's Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Amy Pasquinelli, PhD, associate professor in UCSD's Division of Biological Sciences, were able to globally identify their specific binding sites in the nematode.
"Our results were very surprising in that we discovered that individual miRNAs can interact with their targets very differently, and differently than we had expected," said Yeo. "This approach, and the computational analyses that were develop, open up new ways to identify individual miRNA targets in any tissue and cell type in almost any organism."
"The revelation of thousands of endogenous miRNA target sites provides an unprecedented wealth of data for understanding how miRNAs regulate specific targets in a developing animal," added Pasquinelli.
Their work will be published online in advance of print on January 10 by Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Debra Kain | EurekAlert!
Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs
20.03.2018 | Rockefeller University
Modified biomaterials self-assemble on temperature cues
20.03.2018 | Duke University
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences