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Brazilian researchers identify RNA that regulates cell death
Date:7/30/2014

Researchers from the University of So Paulo (USP) have identified an RNA known as INXS that, although containing no instructions for the production of a protein, modulates the action of an important gene in the process of apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

According to Sergio Verjovski-Almeida, professor at the USP Chemistry Institute and coordinator of a research funded by So Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), INXS expression is generally diminished in cancer cells, and methods that are capable of stimulating the production of this non-coding RNA can be used to treat tumors.

In experiments on mice, the USP scientists were able to effect a 10-fold reduction in the volume of subcutaneous malignant tumors by administering local injections of a plasmid a circular DNA molecule containing INXS. The findings were published in the most recent issue of the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

The group headed by Verjovski-Almeida at USP has devoted the past five years to investigating the regulatory role of so-called intronic non-protein-coding genes those found in the same region of the genome as a coding gene but on the opposite DNA strand. INXS, for example, is an RNA expressed on the opposite strand of a gene coding for a protein known as BCL-X.

"We were studying several protein-coding genes involved in cell death in search of evidence that one of them was regulated by intronic non-coding RNA. That was when we found the gene for BCL-X, which is located on chromosome 20," he explained.

The researcher explained that BCL-X is present in cells in two different forms: one that inhibits apoptosis (BCL-XL) and one that induces the process of cell death (BCL-XS). The two isoforms act on the mitochondria but in opposite ways. The BCL-XS isoform is considered a tumor suppressor because it activates protein complexes known as caspases, which are required for the activation of other genes that cause cell death.

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Contact: Samuel Antenor
samuel@fapesp.br
55-113-838-4381
Fundao de Amparo Pesquisa do Estado de So Paulo
Source:Eurekalert

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