Why an extra helix becomes a third wheel in cell biology

Jul 03, 2014

Every high school biology student knows the structure of DNA is a double helix, but after DNA is converted into RNA, parts of RNA also commonly fold into the same spiral staircase shape.

In a literal scientific twist, researchers are finding examples of a third strand that wraps itself around RNA like a snake, a structure rarely found in nature. Researchers recently have discovered evidence of a triple helix forming at the end of MALAT1, a strand of RNA that does not code for proteins. Yale postdoctoral fellow Jessica Brown and her colleagues working in the labs of Joan A. Steitz and Thomas A. Steitz describe the bonds that maintain the structure of a rare triple helix.

This extra strand of RNA, which is seen in the accompanying movie, prevents degradation of MALAT1. The formation of a triple helix explains how MALAT1 accumulates to very high levels in cancer cells, allowing MALAT1 to promote metastasis of and likely other cancers.

The work is published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

Explore further: DNA double helix measurements

More information: "Structural insights into the stabilization of MALAT1 noncoding RNA by a bipartite triple helix." Jessica A Brown, et al. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.2844. Received 25 March 2014 Accepted 21 May 2014 Published online 22 June 2014

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

RNA promotes metastasis in lung cancer

Feb 05, 2013

The vast majority – approximately 80 percent – of our DNA does not code for proteins, yet it gets transcribed into RNA. These RNA molecules are called non-coding and fulfill multiple tasks in the cell. Alongside a well-studied ...

DNA double helix measurements

May 15, 2014

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN) have determined the structure of DNA from measurements on a single molecule using atomic force microscopy ...

Elusive Z- DNA found on nucleosomes

Jan 20, 2012

New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Cell & Bioscience is the first to show that left-handed Z-DNA, normally only found at sites where DNA is being copied, can also form on nucleosomes.

Researchers explain mechanism that helps viruses spread

Jun 09, 2014

In an article published in the scientific journal Nature, a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues explain how RNA molecules found in certain viruses mimic the shape of other ...

Recommended for you

Stem cells use 'first aid kits' to repair damage

57 minutes ago

Stem cells hold great promise as a means of repairing cells in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke or injuries of the spinal cord because they have the ability to develop into almost any cell type. ...

Healthy humans make nice homes for viruses

Sep 16, 2014

The same viruses that make us sick can take up residence in and on the human body without provoking a sneeze, cough or other troublesome symptom, according to new research at Washington University School ...

User comments : 0