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Scientists at CSHL uncover new RNA processing mechanism and a new class of small RNAs
Date:11/26/2008

their disparate destinations in the cell suggest that they likely serve different functions. And that, Dr. Spector says, is intriguing in part because MALAT1 is known to be a good marker of cancer progression: it is found at abnormally high levels in the nuclei of cancer cells with a propensity to become metastatic.

One new RNA molecule; more to come?

The discovery of the cytoplasmic small RNA fragment of the non-coding MALAT1 molecule, which the CSHL team calls mascRNA, (MALAT1-associated small cytoplasmic RNA) is "just the tip of the iceberg of a whole new class of small RNAs," according to Spector.

This new kid on the small RNA block was found by Spector's lab to be present in most cell types, and is highly conserved, or retained by evolution across many species. In the growing menagerie of small RNA molecules, mascRNA is processed and assumes a physical shape much like that of transfer RNA, or tRNA, an RNA string that folds into a cloverleaf-shaped structure.

tRNA molecules are part of the construction crew that builds proteins; they carry amino acids--the building blocks of proteins-- to protein chains as they are being assembled. But the CSHL team's results suggest that mascRNA, which is smaller than most tRNAs, does not likely perform this function. Yet mascRNA's location in the cell's cytoplasm and its pathway of biogenesis does hint at a possible function. Spector suspects it may act as a "sponge" for proteins, preventing them from reaching their natural destinations within the cell. Another possibility is that mascRNA simply serves to alert the cell that the long non-coding RNA fragment that it originally split off from-- MALAT1--is "available" in the nucleus for other cellular duties.

Broader implications: a new RNA processing mechanism

Researchers now think that at least 40% of long, non-coding RNAs--a considerable chunk of RNA segments that float around the nucleus--may be processed t
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Contact: Hema Bashyam
bashyam@cshl.edu
516-367-6822
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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