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Scientists discover role for dueling RNAs

t spores withstand this harsh environment far more ably than the larger cells from which they originate.

But in some cases, flipping the meiotic switch can be catastrophic. If a cell with only one copy of each chromosome (a haploid cell) is forced into meiosis, the progeny won't survive. Fortunately, such destructive meiotic division is avoided in haploid cells because they continually produce IME4 antisense RNA, blocking the production of sense RNA. Antisense IME4, then, safeguards against meiosis in cells that can't handle it.

"This is the first time that we've found a function for antisense RNA, that is not RNAi, in a higher cell type," says Hongay. "In fact, it's really the first time we've seen a gene regulate itself in this way."

"For years scientists have evaluated genomes by measuring the sense RNA, with antisense transcripts thought to have no meaning at all," says Fink. "Here we've found a process in which antisense RNA regulates sense RNA. This same process may occur in the sex cells of mammals. In fact, considering how widespread these antisense transcripts are, I wouldn't be surprised if these findings eventually lead us to discover an entirely new level of gene regulation."

Hongay is now searching the yeast genome for other genes that might be regulated by antisense RNA.


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Source:Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research


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