JUN 23, 2021 9:21 AM PDT

Expansive RNA Atlas Includes Coding & Non-Coding Molecules

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

We've sequenced the human genome, even the parts that are highly repetitive, don't code for protein, and are extremely challenging to analyze. Now it's time for scientists to investigate the parts of the genome that are expressed as RNA molecules, called the transcriptome, which can have a variety of different functions. What makes this especially difficult is that the transcriptome can be very different from one cell type to another, and can even vary at the single-cell level.

Image credit: Pixabay

Scientists are making serious efforts to create transcriptome atlases. After years of work, researchers have now made an RNA atlas using human samples, which includes not only the sequences that code for protein, but also non-coding RNA molecules. Just like coding sequences, the non-coding sequences can be different lengths and make molecules that are differently shaped; there are circular, linear, short, and long non-coding RNAs. This work, reported in Nature Biotechnology, has assessed RNA molecules from 300 different types of human cells and tissues, with data from three sequencing techniques.

"There have been other projects to catalog our transcriptome but the RNA-Atlas project is unique because of the applied sequencing methods," said Professor Pieter Mestdagh from the Center for Medical Genetics at Ghent University. "Not only did we look at the transcriptome of as many as 300 human cell and tissue types, but most importantly, we did so with three complementary sequencing technologies, one aimed at small RNAs, one aimed at polyadenylated (polyA) RNAs, and a technique called total RNA sequencing."

Total RNA sequencing, which includes many types of RNA molecules from a cell, like ribosomal RNA and precursor RNA, enabled scientists to reveal the existence of non-coding RNAs, some of which have important regulatory functions. There are variations in ncRNAs that have been linked to some diseases.

By using three sequencing methodologies to compare data, the researchers could get an idea of the relative levels of the ncRNAs. They were also able to find some characteristics of these ncRNAs too, like whether they are circular or linear or capped with a poly-A tail. In some cases, they learned more about the function of the RNA molecules; the relative abundance may indicate which are regulatory molecules and whether they have an influence during the transcription of DNA, or during the processing of RNA.

The work is available on the R2 web portal.

"By combining all data in one comprehensive catalog, we have created a new valuable resource for biomedical scientists around the world studying disease processes. A better understanding of the complexity of the transcriptome is indeed essential to better understand disease processes and uncover novel genes that may serve as therapeutic targets or biomarkers," said Professor Pavel Sumazin of the Baylor College of Medicine.

"The age of RNA therapeutics is swiftly rising. We've all witnessed the impressive creation of RNA vaccines, and already the first medicines that target RNA are used in the clinic. I'm sure we'll see lots more of these therapies in the next years and decades."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Ghent University, Nature Biotechnology

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 28, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
RIP Indica/Sativa Cannabis Distinction - Trick, Treat, or Terpene?
OCT 28, 2021
RIP Indica/Sativa Cannabis Distinction - Trick, Treat, or Terpene?
For years, Cannabis growers, breeders, and users have distinguished cultivars using vernacular Sativa/Indica labels. Wit ...
NOV 10, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Protein That Helps Mitochondria Get the Antioxidants They Need
NOV 10, 2021
A Protein That Helps Mitochondria Get the Antioxidants They Need
Energy can come at a cost. In the body, as energy is produced in our cells, those essential chemical reactions also gene ...
DEC 03, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Using CRISPR to Edit the Genomes of Microbes in the Gut
DEC 03, 2021
Using CRISPR to Edit the Genomes of Microbes in the Gut
The gene editing tool CRISPR was originally inspired by an immune defense system used by bacteria, and it's been adapted ...
DEC 12, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Cyagen: One-Stop Research Model & Gene Therapy Solutions
DEC 12, 2021
Cyagen: One-Stop Research Model & Gene Therapy Solutions
With gene therapy demonstrating an enormous potential to treat a wide range of diseases, Cyagen has added a range of gen ...
DEC 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
220,000-Year-Old Mammoth Bonebed Discovered in the UK
DEC 23, 2021
220,000-Year-Old Mammoth Bonebed Discovered in the UK
With good fortune and proper oversite by paleontologists, breakthrough discoveries can be made to shine a light on the l ...
JAN 07, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
The genetic testing company 23andMe begins phase 1 clinical trial for cancer drug
JAN 07, 2022
The genetic testing company 23andMe begins phase 1 clinical trial for cancer drug
This week, 23andMe, the consumer genetic testing giant, announced that it has begun a phase 1 clinical trial o ...
Loading Comments...