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

o generate smaller RNA pieces such as mascRNA, and also other classes of RNA. While the hunt has begun for other tRNA-like small RNAs and their precursor RNAs like MALAT1, the new results from Spector's lab provide a first look at how these bits are produced.

In the case of coding RNAs, once their sequence has been "read" off a DNA template, a molecular complex snips off the tail end of this new piece and tacks on a signal at its end that protects the new molecule from degradation and marks it for export out of the nucleus. In non-coding MALAT1, however, the CSHL team found the protective signal was already embedded within the molecule, just ahead of the portion that later detached to form mascRNA. The molecular complex responsible for cleaving MALAT1 therefore knew precisely where to make its cut--right after the embedded signal--rather than at MALAT1's tail end. In this way, MALAT1 is effectively preconfigured to liberate the mascRNA fragment.

The mechanism that retains the long MALAT1 molecule within the nucleus while expelling the mascRNA fragment into the cytoplasm is still elusive. "The answer will come when we identify more and more RNAs that are built like the MALAT1 precursor and are processed to give rise to different types of RNAs," says Spector.

In the meantime, his lab's current work provides reason to believe that the community of non-coding RNAs has many more surprises to reveal. To the extent that its members can be shown to perform specific functions, it will seem increasingly inapt to consider non-coding RNAs the byproducts of "junk DNA."


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Contact: Hema Bashyam
bashyam@cshl.edu
516-367-6822
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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