APR 22, 2021 10:42 AM PDT

A Novel Mechanism of Gene Regulation is Revealed

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

For simplicity's sake, it's easy to think of DNA as a double-stranded molecule made of nucleotide bases A, G, C, and T, and RNA as a single-stranded molecule made of the nucleotide bases A, G, C, and U. But the reality is a bit more complex; both molecules can form more complex structures. For example, DNA is also able to form a quadruple helix structure. RNA is also able to take on secondary structures; if one part of an RNA sequence is complementary to another on the same strand, it's possible for these complementary sequences to bind to one another and form what's sometimes known as a hairpin.

Image credit: Modified from Pixabay

Mature RNA may exist in a double-stranded form for a variety of reasons. In transfer RNA, it's an essential part of the structure of the molecule. In the case of messenger RNA (mRNA), it may prevent the cell from degrading mRNA molecules that have formed hairpins, or the secondary structure could influence how an mRNA interacts with other molecules. There are also disorders that are known to arise because complementary regions of RNA are lost, and no secondary structure is formed. The loss of the resulting function causes disease.

Researchers have now determined that an interaction between parts of an RNA molecule that are far apart may help control gene expression. The findings have been reported in Nature Communications.

In this work, scientists analyzed sequences of RNA that are on the same molecule and complementary to one other, but spaced very far apart, a type of interaction that has not been well-understood. Studies have frequently focused on complementary regions of RNA that are closer together.

The scientists determined that the secondary structures that come from distant, complementary regions in RNA may play a role in the processing of RNA into mature molecules that have had their non-coding portions removed, and coding regions stitched together. Secondary RNA structures that form from distant regions appear to be involved in the control of RNA splicing, which would give them a significant influence on gene expression.

"This paper culminates years of research on the RNA secondary structure and its role in the regulation of gene expression. We have published an extensive computation-based catalog of potentially important RNA structures, but the experimental research in this direction is just starting," said senior study author Professor Dmitri Pervouchine of Skoltech.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), Nature Communications

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 21, 2021
Immunology
Sunshine Vitamin Boosts Dairy Cows' Immunity
OCT 21, 2021
Sunshine Vitamin Boosts Dairy Cows' Immunity
A new study shows how vitamin D can help dairy cows fend off infections, offering opportunities for better animal health ...
NOV 02, 2021
Microbiology
Syphilis is on the Rise, and Infants are Paying a High Price
NOV 02, 2021
Syphilis is on the Rise, and Infants are Paying a High Price
Syphilis is on the rise worldwide, and it's killing infants. The disease is a leading cause of stillbirth worldwide, acc ...
NOV 11, 2021
Health & Medicine
The Taconic-Cyagen Academic Model Generation Alliance
NOV 11, 2021
The Taconic-Cyagen Academic Model Generation Alliance
With more than 15 years of experience in genetic engineering, Cyagen utilizes a highly efficient process, including prop ...
NOV 21, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Crucial Developmental Genes Found to Still be Active in Adulthood
NOV 21, 2021
Crucial Developmental Genes Found to Still be Active in Adulthood
Hox genes play a critical role in mapping the development of multicellular organisms. This group of genes is also expres ...
NOV 21, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
For Blood Stem Cells, Size Matters
NOV 21, 2021
For Blood Stem Cells, Size Matters
The size of cells can vary widely from one species to another; the cells of phytoplankton are about one micron while fro ...
NOV 21, 2021
Microbiology
Rare Genetic Variant Can Make People Susceptible to Bird Flu H7N9
NOV 21, 2021
Rare Genetic Variant Can Make People Susceptible to Bird Flu H7N9
Zoonosis is a serious health concern, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown. Viruses that infect one species can acquire ge ...
Loading Comments...