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UD researchers discover novel 'gene toggles' in world's top food crop
Date:4/9/2008

University of Delaware researchers, in collaboration with U.S. and international colleagues, have found a new type of molecule--a kind of micro-switch--that can turn off genes in rice, which is the primary source of food for more than half the world's population. The discovery is reported in the March 25 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Composed of short lengths of ribonucleic acids (RNAs), on the order of about 20 nucleotides long, these novel molecules, called natural antisense microRNAs (nat-miRNAs), target the genes sitting directly across from them on the opposite strand of DNA in a rice cell.

In addition to uncovering a new genetic switch and gaining insight about its pathways and evolution, which are important to the health of a grain that feeds most of the world, the research also may help scientists locate this type of novel gene regulator in other organisms, including humans. MicroRNAs regulate 30 percent of human genes and thus are critical to human health and development.

The research was led by Pamela Green, the Crawford Greenewalt Chair of Plant Sciences at UD, and Blake Meyers, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and their laboratory groups at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, including associate scientist Cheng Lu, postdoctoral researchers Dong-Hoon Jeong and Kan Nobuta, graduate students Karthik Kulkarni, Manoj Pillay, and Shawn Thatcher and research associate Rana German.

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and at the Chinese Academy of Sciences collaborated on the project.

MicroRNAs are small RNA molecules that play a key role in regulating cellular processes, including a cell's development and its responses to stress. These micro-molecules bind to specific messenger RNA molecules, which carry instructions to the cells to make particular proteins. This binding typically causes the messenger RNAs to be degraded in
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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