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Study of microRNA helps NIH scientists unlock secrets of immune cells
Date:6/4/2010

With the rapid and continuous advances in biotechnology, scientists are better able to see inside the nucleus of a cell to unlock the secrets of its genetic material. However, what happens outside of the nucleus has, in many ways, remained a mystery. Now, researchers with the National Institutes of Health are closer to understanding how activity outside of the nucleus determines a cell's behavior. They looked at mouse immune cells and examined the types, amount, and activity of microRNAs, genetic components that help regulate the production of proteins. Their study provides a map to the variety of microRNAs contained within mouse immune cells and reveals the complexity of cellular protein regulation. The study appears online in the journal Immunity.

An organism is made up of cells containing genetic material in the form of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) residing within the nucleus. An organism's entire collection of DNA is called its genome and consists of genes, short segments of DNA that code for proteins, and many long segments of DNA that do not contain genes. While each cell contains the entire genome, not all of a cell's genes are making proteins all of the time. Which genes are turned on and which are turned off, and when, determine the behavior of a cell, such as the type of cell it becomes, where it goes, and what it does.

"A plethora of cellular functions, ranging from development, differentiation, metabolism, and host defense, are impacted by protein levels," said Rafael Casellas, Ph.D., the study's principal investigator from the Genomics and Immunity Group of the NIH's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). " We were interested in discovering how microRNAs contribute to the regulation of these functions."

A cell makes proteins through a process called transcription, in which genes are copied from DNA into messenger ribonucleic acid (RNA), which travels from the nucleus into t
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Contact: Trish Reynolds
reynoldsp2@mail.nih.gov
301-496-8190
NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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