Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wistar researchers discover new class of objects encoded within the genome

07.10.2010
Despite progress in decoding the genome, scientists estimate that fully 95 percent of our DNA represents dark, unknown territory.

In the October 1 issue of the journal Cell researchers at The Wistar Institute shed new light on the genetic unknown with the discovery of the ability of long non-coding RNA (ncRNA) to promote gene expression.

The researchers believe these long ncRNA molecules may represent so-called gene enhancer elements—short regions of DNA that can increase gene transcription. While scientists have known about gene enhancers for decades, there has been no consensus about how these enhancers work.

These findings join a growing body of evidence that the classic “central dogma” of genetics is incomplete. In the central dogma, chromosomal DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is then translated by the cell into proteins. In recent years, however, scientists have found that not all transcribed RNA molecules become translated into proteins. In fact, studies have shown that whole swathes of the genome are transcribed for unknown reasons.

In the present study, the Wistar researchers pinpoint 3,000 long ncRNAs and estimate that there could be a total of between 10,000 to 12,000 long ncRNA sequences within our DNA. This number is comparable to the 20,000 genes that are known to encode proteins. Most long ncRNAs are encoded in DNA near genes known to be important to both stem cells and cancer. This observation also suggests that targeting ncRNAs may represent a new strategy in slowing cancer growth.

“We are excited, first of all, because this is a new discovery about the very nature of human DNA; a new class of genetic object and a new layer of genetic regulation,” said Ramin Shiekhattar, Ph.D., Wistar’s Herbert Kean, M.D., Family Professor and senior author of the study.

“Secondly, we may have solved, in part, a great mystery in modern genetics. These long non-coding RNA sequences may account for the activity of enhancer elements, which have been well-studied but never quite characterized,” Shiekhattar said.

Almost three years ago, while at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, Shiekhattar began a prospective hunt for non-coding RNA sequences using GENCODE, a database that annotates the human genome with currently available scientific evidence. After filtering out protein-coding transcripts and non-coding RNAs that might overlap known protein-coding genes, they found approximately 3,000 long ncRNA sequences. At the time, GENCODE only accounted for a third of the genome, so Shiekhattar estimates that there are likely more.

The researchers mapped the ncRNA sites within the genome, and found that ncRNAs tended to be located near genes that influence how stem cells change into other cell types. Shiekhattar and his colleagues then developed new assays to screen cell cultures for these ncRNA sequences, and discovered that ncRNAs were found extensively in a variety of cell types.

The idea that molecules of RNA can have a DNA-regulating effect is well established. More than 1,000 so-called microRNAs are known to science, for example, and their effect on silencing genes has been well described. According to Shiekhattar, he assumed that long ncRNAs would also silence genes, not promote their activation. To his surprise, the researchers found that depleting a cell of ncRNAs actually decreased the degree of overall gene expression of neighboring genes, revealing a role for ncRNAs in potentiating gene expression.

In fact, when Shiekhattar and his colleagues depleted adult stem cells of a specific long ncRNA, known as ncRNA-activating 7 (ncRNA-a7), it had the same effect as depleting the protein product of a nearby gene, Snai1, which regulates how the cells migrate. Their studies further showed that inserting an ncRNA next to a gene for luciferase—the enzyme responsible for a firefly’s glow—increased the amount of protein produced by that gene in cells grown in culture. While not all long ncRNAs may act like enhancers, the majority of the ones the team studied do, Shiekhattar says.

“We know long non-coding RNAs can promote gene expression, but what we need to know now is how they do it,” Shiekhattar said, “which is precisely the object of our ongoing research plan.”

Wistar co-authors include Ulf Andersson Ørom, Ph.D., first author and postdoctoral fellow in the Shiekhattar laboratory; Qihong Huang, M.D., Ph.D., a Wistar professor; Kiranmai Gumireddy, Ph.D., a senior staff scientist in the Huang laboratory; Malte Beringer, Ph.D., Alessandro Gardini, Ph.D., and Fan Lai, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellows in the Shiekhattar laboratory. Co-authors from the Centre for Genomic Regulation include Thomas Derrien, Ph.D., Giovanni Bussotti, Ph.D., Matthias Zytnicki, Ph.D., Cedric Notredame, Ph.D., and Roderic Guigo, Ph.D.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the American Italian Cancer Foundation, and the Danish Council for Independent Research.

The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures.

Greg Lester | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wistar.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>