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Using novel tool, UD researchers dig through cell 'trash' and find treasure
Date:9/19/2008

A person's trash can reveal valuable information, as detectives, historians and identity thieves well know. Likewise, a cell's "trash" may yield certain treasures, University of Delaware researchers have found.

Using a new technique they developed, scientists at UD's Delaware Biotechnology Institute analyzed the cellular waste of one of the world's most-studied plants and discovered formerly hidden relationships between genes and the small molecules that can turn them off.

The approach, devised by postdoctoral researcher Marcelo German, with Pamela Green, the Crawford H. Greenewalt Endowed Chair in Plant Molecular Biology, and Blake Meyers, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and their research teams, is reported in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Biotechnology. It also is highlighted, along with two related techniques that were developed almost simultaneously by other U.S. research teams, in a commentary in the journal's "News and Views" by molecular biologists Ian Henderson and Steven Jacobsen from the University of California at Los Angeles.

The study, which was funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, was undertaken in Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family. The first flowering plant to have had all of its genetic material ("genome") sequenced, Arabidopsis is regarded as the botanical equivalent of the fruit fly due to the relatively small size of its genome and the ease with which the plant can be cultured and grown in the lab.

The researchers' focus was the cellular targets of tiny molecules of ribonucleic acid (RNA) known as "microRNAs," which play a critical role in how a plant cell develops and responds to stress. MicroRNAs bind to messenger RNAs, which are longer molecules that carry instructions to the cells to make proteins.

"The microRNAs target messenger RNAs--they are out to destroy them--in plant cells," Meyers said.


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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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