Researchers Identify microRNA targets in C. elegans

Jan 10, 2010

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNAs that impact almost every aspect of biology. In recent years, they have been strongly implicated in stem cell biology, tissue and organism development, as well as human conditions ranging from mental disorders to cancer.

For the most part, miRNAs control gene expression of (mRNA) targets. Unlike mRNAs, which are translated into proteins, miRNAs function as short, untranslated molecules that regulate specific mRNAs through base-pairing interactions. Since miRNAs bind limited stretches of consecutive bases in mRNAs, identifying which mRNAs are targets of individual miRNAs has been a bottleneck of biomedical research, as researchers have had to rely largely on computational predictions.

Now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have identified the binding sites of these miRNAs in one of the foremost model organisms, C. elegans, using biochemical means to capture targeted mRNA sequences in vivo.

Argonaute proteins are key players in gene-silencing pathways; miRNAs are anchored into specific binding sites to guide Argonaute proteins to target mRNA molecules for silencing or destruction. By cross-linking interactions between the Argonaute protein bound to miRNA and mRNA duplexes, principal investigators Gene Yeo, PhD, assistant professor in UCSD's Department of Cellular and and Amy Pasquinelli, PhD, associate professor in UCSD's Division of Biological Sciences, were able to globally identify their specific binding sites in the nematode.

"Our results were very surprising in that we discovered that individual miRNAs can interact with their targets very differently, and differently than we had expected," said Yeo. "This approach, and the computational analyses that were develop, open up new ways to identify individual miRNA targets in any tissue and cell type in almost any organism."

"The revelation of thousands of endogenous miRNA target sites provides an unprecedented wealth of data for understanding how miRNAs regulate specific targets in a developing animal," added Pasquinelli.

Explore further: New knowledge about host-virus coevolution unmasked from the genomic record

More information: This work will be published online in advance of print on January 10 by Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

Related Stories

Researchers discover how microRNAs control protein synthesis

Jul 09, 2007

While most RNAs work to create, package, and transfer proteins as determined by the cell’s immediate needs, miniature pieces of RNA, called microRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression. Recently, researchers from the University ...

Team find gene signature profile for metastasis

May 31, 2008

A common signature of tiny, specific pieces of non-coding genetic material known as microRNAs (miRNAs) may be directly involved in the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at ...

Researchers identify another potential biomarker

Jan 13, 2009

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have demonstrated that a recently discovered class of molecule called microRNA (miRNAs), regulate the gene expression changes in airway cells that occur with smoking ...

Blood 'fingerprints' for cancer

Sep 03, 2008

Serum microRNAs (miRNAs) can serve as biomarkers for the detection of diseases including cancer and diabetes, according to research published online this week in Cell Research. The findings pave the way for a revolutionary ...

Tiny genes may increase cancer susceptibility

May 23, 2007

New evidence indicates that small pieces of noncoding genetic material known as microRNAs (miRNAs) might influence cancer susceptibility. Differences in certain miRNAs may predispose some individuals to develop cancer, say ...

Recommended for you

Devising a way to count proteins as they group

9 hours ago

A new study from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and University of California Berkeley researchers reports on an innovative theoretical methodology to solve "the counting problem," which is key to understanding ...

Mysteries of 'molecular machines' revealed

9 hours ago

"Inside each cell in our bodies and inside every bacterium and virus are tiny but complex protein molecules that synthesize chemicals, replicate genetic material, turn each other on and off, and transport ...

Bacteria are wishing you a Merry Xmas

15 hours ago

A bacterium has been used to wish people a Merry Xmas. Grown by Dr Munehiro Asally, an Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick, the letters used to spell MERRY XMAS are made of Bacillus subtilis, ...

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.