NEW YORK (July 28, 2011) -- The ability to tag proteins with a green fluorescent light to watch how they behave inside cells so revolutionized the understanding of protein biology that it earned the scientific teams who developed the technique Nobel Prizes in 2008. Now, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed a similar fluorescent tool that can track the mysterious workings of the various forms of cellular RNA.
In the July 29 issue of Science, the Weill Cornell investigators report how they developed an RNA mimic of green fluorescent protein (GFP) -- which they dubbed Spinach -- and describe how it will help unlock the secrets of the complex ways that RNA sustains human life as well as contributes to disease.
"These fluorescent RNAs offer us a tool that will be critical for understanding the diverse roles that RNA plays in human biology," says the study's senior author, Dr. Samie Jaffrey, an associate professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
In recent years, the many roles played by RNA have become clearer. "Scientists used to think that RNA's function was limited to making proteins and that these proteins alone dictated everything that happened in cells," he says. "But now we are understanding that cells contain many different forms of RNA -- and some RNAs influence cell signaling and gene expression without ever being used for synthesizing proteins."
The list of known types of RNA has grown rapidly over the past several years -- from messenger RNA that codes for proteins, to diverse "non-coding" RNAs that affect translation and gene expression, and in some cases bind to proteins and regulate their function -- yet little is known about how these RNAs work, the researchers say.
The study's first author, Dr. Jeremy Paige, who conducted the research as a graduate student in pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College, adds that the new technology may provide insights in
|Contact: Andrew Klein|
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College