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

he body of the cell. Not all RNA transcribed from DNA are messenger RNA, however. There are many other forms of RNA that do not code for proteins. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), for example, are small strands of RNA that modulate the production of proteins from messenger RNA, thereby helping to regulate protein levels in the cell. Previous studies have shown that cells are very sensitive to fluctuations in miRNA levels, which require tight control in order to regulate protein activity effectively.

In the current study, the NIH scientists used a new microsequencing technology to comprehensively identify all of the different miRNAs existing in mouse immune cells. In addition to increasing the number of known miRNAs, the scientists also discovered several cellular mechanisms that regulate miRNA abundance. The study found that some miRNA constructs exist in a dormant state within the nucleus until they receive signals from the epigenome to become active. The epigenome regulates transcription and comprises all of the non-genetic material in the nucleus. Other miRNAs, the researchers determined, are not hampered by these epigenetic mechanisms and are controlled simply through transcription. However, for some of these miRNAs, abundance depends upon the amount of target messenger RNA available in the cell.

According to NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., "The data generated from this study represent a useful tool for immunologists and cell biologists to use for future studies on functional aspects of the immune system and basic miRNA biology."


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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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