RNA plays a critical role in directing the creation of proteins, but there is more to the life of an RNA molecule than simply carrying DNA's message. One can imagine that an RNA molecule is born, matures, and eventually, meets its demise. Researchers at the Broad have developed an approach that offers many windows into the lifecycle of these essential molecules and will enable other scientists to investigate what happens when something in a cell goes wrong. They describe their approach, which offers high resolution and a comprehensive scope, in a Nature Biotechnology article published online on April 24.
"People are discovering more and more how the RNA lifecycle is at the heart of problems we see in disease, but we actually understand a lot less about it than we understand about many other cellular processes," said Aviv Regev, a core faculty member of the Broad Institute and a co-senior author on the paper.
Regev and her colleagues have developed a method that allows them to tease apart the different stages of this lifecycle by measuring how much messenger RNA is produced and how much is degraded. The balance of these two processes contributes to the changes seen in RNA levels in a cell over time, much the way that birth and death rates contribute to a country's total population.
RNA levels are dynamic they change in response to certain stimuli. For this study, the researchers examined dendritic cells, which are involved in the body's immune response, as a model. They exposed these cells to a stimulus that resembled a pathogen and then looked at RNA changes before and after exposure.
"We wanted to understand how cells regulate RNA levels, and if regulation happens at the step of producing the molecule, degrading the molecule, or processing it," said Michal Rabani, first author of the paper and an MIT graduate student at the Broad. "Each of these steps can affect the level of active RNA molecules in cells. If you wan
|Contact: Nicole Davis|
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard