Long non-coding RNAs can encode proteins after all

Jun 23, 2014

Case Western Reserve School of Medicine scientists have made an extraordinary double discovery. First, they have identified thousands of novel long non-coding ribonucleic acid (lncRNA) transcripts. Second, they have learned that some of them defy conventional wisdom regarding lncRNA transcripts, because they actually do direct the synthesis of proteins in cells.

Both of the breakthroughs are detailed in the June 12 issue of Cell Reports.

Kristian E. Baker, PhD, assistant professor in the Center for RNA Molecular Biology, led the team that applied high throughput to yield these impressive findings, which ultimately could lead to treatments for cancer and some genetic disorders.

"Our work establishes that lncRNAs in yeast can encode proteins, and we provide evidence that this is probably true also in mammals, including humans," Baker said. "Our investigation has expanded our knowledge of the genetic coding potential of already well-characterized genomes."

Collaborating with researchers including Case Western Reserve University graduate and undergraduate students, Baker analyzed yeast and mouse cells, which serve as model organisms because of their functional resemblance to .

Previously, lncRNAs were thought to lack the information and capacity to encode for proteins, distinguishing them from the messenger RNAs that are expressed from known genes and act primarily as templates for the synthesis of proteins. Yet this team demonstrated that a subset of these lncRNAs is engaged by the translation machinery and can function to produce protein products.

In the future, Baker and fellow investigators will continue to look for novel RNA transcripts and also search for a function for these lncRNAs and their protein products in cells.

"Discovery of more transcripts equates to the discovery of new and novel genes," Baker said. "The significance of this work is that we have discovered evidence for the expression of previously undiscovered genes. Knowing that genes are expressed is the very first step in figuring out what they do in normal cellular function or in dysfunction and disease."

Explore further: Genomic 'dark matter' of embryonic lungs controls proper development of airways

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Herpes virus hijackers

May 22, 2015

The virus responsible for the common cold sore hijacks the machinery within our cells, causing them to break down and help shield the virus from our immune system, researchers from the University of Cambridge ...

Bacteria cooperate to repair damaged siblings

May 21, 2015

A University of Wyoming faculty member led a research team that discovered a certain type of soil bacteria can use their social behavior of outer membrane exchange (OME) to repair damaged cells and improve ...

New antibody insecticide targets malaria mosquito

May 20, 2015

Malaria is a cruel and disabling disease that targets victims of all ages. Even now, it is estimated to kill one child every minute. Recent progress in halting the spread of the disease has hinged on the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.