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Mutant mouse reveals new wrinkle in genetic code, say UCSF scientists
Date:4/28/2011

utations turned out to delete a protein called Rpl38, one of 79 proteins that make up the mouse ribosome. Without Rpl38, the ribosome in the tail short mouse still worked, but it lost the ability to control which proteins it expressed an ability scientists never thought the ribosome had in the first place. Moreover, the effect was not generalized throughout the body of the mouse, but specific only to certain tissues.

In early fetal development, the loss of Rpl38 caused certain parts of the backbone to grow and develop as if they were elsewhere in the spine thus the extra ribs in the neck. Mutations in the proteins of human ribosomes can also lead to unexpected tissue-specific congenital birth defects including malformations of the spine, face, limbs, heart and other organs. The reasons why have been a mystery, but the explanation may be that the ribosome plays a fundamental regulatory role in embryonic development.

"It dictates where and when the final outcomes of gene products are expressed," said Barna. "Therefore the genetic code has a previously unrecognized set of instructions that are carried out by the ribosome to control cell behavior. For example, whether or not a vertebrate has a pair of ribs associated with it."

The work also suggests that ribosomes could act differently in different tissues in the body, adding an entirely new layer of complexity to the already complex program by which the genetic code is expressed in living creatures.


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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jason.bardi@ucsf.edu
415-502-4608
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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