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The language of RNA decoded: Study reveals new function for pseudogenes and noncoding RNAs
Date:6/23/2010

BOSTON -- The central dogma of molecular biology, as proposed in 1970 by Francis Crick and James Watson, holds that genetic information is transferred from DNA to functional proteins by way of messenger RNA (mRNA). This suggests that mRNA has but a single role, that being to encode for proteins.

Now, a cancer genetics team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) suggests there is much more to RNA than meets the eye.

In a study appearing in the June 24, 2010 issue of Nature, the authors describe a new regulatory role for RNA -- independent of their protein-coding function that relies on their ability to communicate with one another. Of potentially even greater significance, because this new function also holds true for thousands of noncoding RNAs, the discovery dramatically increases the known pool of functional genetic information.

The new findings suggest that nature has crafted a clever tale of espionage such that thousands upon thousands of mRNAs and noncoding RNAs, together with a mysterious group of genetic relics known as pseudogenes, take part in undercover reconnaissance of cellular microRNAs, resulting in a new category of genetic elements which, when mutated, can have consequences for cancer and human disease at large.

"Because this new function does not depend on the blueprint that RNAs harbor in their protein-encoding nucleotide sequence, the discovery additionally holds true for the thousands of noncoding RNA molecules in the cell," explains senior author Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD, Director of Research at the BIDMC Cancer Center and George C. Reisman Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School."This means that not only have we discovered a new language for mRNA, but we have also translated the previously unknown language of up to 17,000 pseudogenes and at least 10,000 long non-coding (lnc) RNAs. Consequently, we now know the function of an estimated 30,000 new entities, offering a novel d
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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