Linking RNA structure and function

Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 12:01 in Biology & Nature

Several years ago, biologists discovered a new type of genetic material known as long noncoding RNA. This RNA does not code for proteins and is copied from sections of the genome once believed to be “junk DNA.” Since then, scientists have found evidence that long noncoding RNA, or lncRNA, plays roles in many cellular processes, including guiding cell fate during embryonic development. However, it has been unknown exactly how lncRNA exerts this influence. Inspired by historical work showing that structure plays a role in the function of other classes of RNA such as transfer RNA, MIT biologists have now deciphered the structure of one type of lncRNA and used that information to figure out how it interacts with a cellular protein to control the development of heart muscle cells. This is one of first studies to link the structure of lncRNAs to their function. “Emerging data points to fundamental roles for many of...

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