Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Decaying RNA molecules tell a story

05.06.2015

Once messenger RNA (mRNA) has done its job - conveying the information to produce the proteins necessary for a cell to function - it is no longer required and is degraded. Scientists have long thought that the decay started after translation was complete and that decaying RNA molecules provided little biological information.

Now a team from EMBL Heidelberg and Stanford University led by Lars Steinmetz has turned this on its head in an article published in Cell. The researchers have shown that one end of the mRNA begins to decay while the other is still serving as a template for protein production. Thus, studying the decaying mRNA also provides a snapshot of how proteins are produced.


The enzyme that degrades messenger RNA follows the ribosomes and stops every 3 nucleotides.

Credit: V.Pelechano/EMBL

The discovery was made almost by accident. As part of research into how DNA is transcribed into mRNA, co-researchers Vicent Pelechano and Wu Wei developed an in vivo method to count decaying mRNA molecules in the cell. mRNA has a protective 'cap' that prevents it from being degraded - once that cap is removed, the decay begins. The researchers spotted a pattern in the distribution of the 'cap-less' RNA that they didn't expect.

Vicent Pelechano, from the Steinmetz group at EMBL Heidelberg, explains: "The decaying RNA was thought to be of little interest biologically, so we were really surprised to see a pattern. We looked more deeply into it because it appeared to be linked to the genetic code, but we never expected it to lead to a completely new understanding of how mRNA and ribosomes interact."

Proteins are produced from mRNA by ribosomes - 'molecular machines' that pass successively along the mRNA to translate its nucleotides into amino acids. It was thought that the mRNA only started to decay once the final ribosome had left it and translation was complete. In fact, the researchers were able to determine that the protective 'cap' is removed and degradation begins even while ribosomes are still associated with the mRNA.

They demonstrated that the enzyme degrading mRNA follows closely behind the ribosome, pausing at set points along the mRNA, usually after each group of 3 nucleotides, the section of code that relates to one amino acid. The team believes that this shows the enzyme pausing while translation goes on - allowing the ribosome to do its work and move on - before starting to degrade the mRNA previously protected by the ribosome.

This novel approach also opens up new avenues to study ribosomes. "Researchers studying ribosome activity usually use drugs to stall the ribosomes in place. This can alter the way we perceive their activity. We are simply looking for the molecules remaining from mRNA decay and determining their distribution. We believe this shows a more accurate picture of what is happening to the mRNA and the ribosome than was previously possible," explains Wu Wei of Stanford University.

Media Contact

Isabelle Kling
isabelle.kling@embl.de
49-622-138-78355

 @EMBLorg

http://www.embl.org 

Isabelle Kling | EurekAlert!

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

NIH scientists illuminate causes of hepatitis b virus-associated acute liver failure

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs

14.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>