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New tool developed for profiling critical regulatory structures of RNA molecules
Date:11/25/2013

A molecular technique that will help the scientific community to analyze -- on a scale previously impossible -- molecules that play a critical role in regulating gene expression has been developed by a research team led by a chemist and a plant biologist at Penn State University. The scientists developed a method that enables more-accurate prediction of how ribonucleic acid molecules (RNAs) fold within living cells, thus shedding new light on how plants -- as well as other living organisms -- respond to environmental conditions. Potential implications of the methodology for human health include, for example, learning how an infection-induced fever could affect the RNA structures of both humans and pathogens.

A paper by the research team -- led by Sarah M. Assmann, Waller Professor of Biology, and Philip Bevilacqua, professor of chemistry -- is scheduled for early online publication in the journal Nature on 24 November 2013.

"Scientists have studied a few individual RNA molecules, but now we have data on almost all the RNA molecules in a cell -- more than 10,000 different RNAs," Assmann said. "We are the first to determine, on a genome-wide basis, the structures of the RNA molecules in a plant, or in any living organism."

Temperature and drought are among the environmental stress factors that affect the structure of RNA molecules, thereby influencing how genes are "expressed" -- how their functions are turned on or turned off. "Climate change is predicted to cause increasingly extreme and unpredictable heat waves and droughts, which would impact our food crops, in part by affecting the structures of their RNA molecules and so influencing their translation into proteins," Bevilacqua said. "The more we understand about how environmental factors affect RNA structure and thereby influence gene expression, the more we may be able to breed -- or develop with biotechnological methods -- crops that are more resistant to those s
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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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