Revising the textbook on introns

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 13:30 in Biology & Nature

A research team from Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising and previously unrecognized role for introns, the parts of genes that lack the instructions for making proteins and are typically cut away and rapidly destroyed. Through studies of baker’s yeast, the researchers identified a highly unusual group of introns that linger and accumulate, in their fully intact form, long after they have been freed from their neighboring sequences, which are called exons. Importantly, these persistent introns play a role in regulating yeast growth, particularly under stressful conditions. The researchers, whose work appears online in the journal Nature, suggest that some introns also might accumulate and carry out functions in other organisms. “This is the first time anyone has found a biological role for full-length, excised introns,” says senior author David Bartel, a member of the Whitehead Institute. “Our findings challenge the view of these introns as simply byproducts of gene expression, destined...

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