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Sea anemone is genetically half animal, half plant
Date:3/18/2014

elopmental processes. Mutations in distinct microRNAs are associated with severe diseases such as cancer. Each microRNA can bind many different RNAs in a sequence specific manner. "We assume that 30 50 percent of all human genes are regulated by microRNAs", Ulrich Technau illustrates. However, the evolutionary origin of animal microRNAs is still unclear.

and in plants

MicroRNAs were also discovered in plants, but it has been assumed that they arose independently from animal microRNAs, since they (1) don't show any sequence similarity to them, (2) have a different biogenesis pathway and (3) have a substantially different mode of action: Plant microRNAs bind only one to a handful of targets with high sequence specificity and induce with the aid of Argonaute proteins the specific cleavage of the target RNA. In collaboration with American, French and Norwegian groups, Ulrich Technau and his team managed to isolate 87 microRNAs from the sea anemone.

Yehu Moran, David Fredman and Daniela Praher from the Technau team were able to show that the microRNAs of the sea anemone depict all the hallmarks of plant microRNAs: They have an almost perfect complementarity to their target RNAs, which are subsequently cleaved and not inhibited like in other animals. Moran also discovered a gene in the sea anemone, HYL-1, which is essential for the microRNA biogenesis in plants and was never detected in any other animal model organism before. Moreover, when one compares the sequences of microRNAs, one microRNA with similarity to a plant microRNA as well as one microRNA with similarity to an animal microRNA can be found. Altogether, these findings suggest the first evolutionary link between microRNAs of plants and animals.

In summary, while the sea anemone's genome, gene repertoire and gene regulation on the DNA level is surprisingly similar to vertebrates, its post-transcriptional regulation is plant-like and probably dates back to t
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Contact: Ulrich Technau
ulrich.technau@univie.ac.at
43-142-775-7000
University of Vienna
Source:Eurekalert  

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