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Cooperation is key—a new way of looking at MicroRNA and how it controls gene expression

A group of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute is reporting a discovery that sheds light on an area of research fundamental to everything from the normal processes that govern the everyday life of human cells to the aberrant mechanisms that underlie many diseases, including cancer and septic shock.

The discovery concerns tiny fragments of RNA known as microRNA and their relationship to the genetic transcripts known as messenger RNA (mRNA).

All genes expressed in the human body must be transcribed as mRNA before they can be translated into proteins, and the stability of these mRNA transcripts is essential for control of genetic expression.

In the latest issue of the journal Cell, the Scripps Research team, led by Immunology Professor Jiahuai Han, describes how genetic control can be exerted in living cells through microRNA's action in conjunction with several different proteins.

"Most microRNA probably need the help of these other proteins and other molecules to target mRNA," says Han. "[This targeting] not only depends on their complementary sequence but on whether these proteins are around to stabilize them."

Han and his Scripps Research colleagues collaborated with researchers at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland, and at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology in Hong Kong, China for this study.

Stability is the Key to Control

Ever since biologists first started mapping genetic traits to particular genes, science and society have been fascinated by those tens of thousands of stretches of DNA within the nuclei of cells we call our genes.

One thing that has become clear in the last several decades, however, is that while our genes contribute to human health and disease, it is not always the genes themselves that matter, but rather how the genes are controlled that makes a difference. The regulation of gene expression is one of the most fundamental
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Source:The Scripps Institute


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