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A real time look at interactions between RNA and proteins

For the first time, researchers can now peer inside intact cells to not only identify RNA-binding proteins, but also observe–in real-time–the intricate activities of these special molecules that make them key players in managing some of the cell's most basic functions. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who developed the new technology see this advance as one of the next logical steps in genomics research. Senior author James Eberwine, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology at Penn, and colleagues published their research this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Now we have a workable system to understand all aspects of RNA metabolism in a cell," say Eberwine. "For the first time, we can study how manipulation of cellular physiology, such as administering a drug, changes RNA-binding protein and RNA interactions. This technology allows us to see that in real time in real cells."

RNA is the genetic material that programs cells to make proteins from DNA's blueprint and specifies which proteins should be made. There are many types of RNA in the cells of mammals, such as transfer RNA, ribosomal RNA, and messenger RNA–each with a specific purpose in making and manipulating proteins.

The workhorses of the cell, RNA-binding proteins regulate every aspect of RNA function. Indeed, RNA is transported from one site to another inside the cell by RNA-binding proteins; RNA is translated into protein with the help of RNA-binding proteins, and RNA-binding proteins degrade used RNA. "They're really the master regulators of expression in the cell," says Eberwine.

Using whole neurons from rodents, the researchers were able to identify RNA interactions in live cells. In collaboration with Ûlo Langel from Stockholm University, the Penn investigators devised a many-talented molecule that does not get broken down by enzymes once inside a live cell. One end of the molecule, called a peptide nucleic acid (PNA), ha
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Source:University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine


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