Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Snippet Of RNA Helps Make Individuals Remarkably Alike

Date:
May 6, 2009
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Uniformity, or singleness of form, is a general property of life. Biologists have long pondered how this feature is produced in the face of such great variation in genetics and environmental conditions. Researchers now have identified a microRNA that is critical to the robustness of the molecular network that helps regulate uniformity. This knowledge could lead to a better understanding of cancer cells, which do not act in controllable, uniform ways.

"No two people are alike." Yet when we consider the thousands of genes with frequent differences in genetic composition among different people, it is remarkable how much alike we are.

Uniformity, or singleness of form, is not unique to humans but a general property of life. Biologists have long pondered how this feature is produced in the face of such great variation in genetics as well as environmental conditions.

Northwestern University researchers now have identified a type of molecule that plays a specific role in maintaining uniformity: a little snippet of RNA called a microRNA. They found that a microRNA called miR-7 is critical to the robustness of the molecular network that helps regulate uniformity.

The findings are published online by the journal Cell. This knowledge could lead to a better understanding of the workings of cancer cells, which do not act in controllable, uniform ways.

The Northwestern research builds on an idea that originated in the 1940's: Molecules within cells of the body work together in networks, each molecule interconnected with others.

"When something is changed, say the genetic sequence of a molecule or the temperature of the organism, the network responds to compensate for the change and keep things intact," said Richard W. Carthew, Owen L. Coon Professor of Molecular Biology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. Carthew led the research. "This design is similar to the principle that engineers use to design safety features into products."

There are hundreds of different types of microRNAs in animals. Their function is to dampen or shut down the production of proteins in the body. The Carthew group found one of these microRNAs, miR-7, dampens production of proteins that work in the same networks as miR-7.

In a study of Drosophila, when the researchers eliminated miR-7, the networks remained intact but only under uniform environmental conditions. When the researchers perturbed the environment by modulating the temperature, the networks failed to keep things intact, and animals suffered from developmental defects. If the microRNA was present, however, the networks resisted the temperature fluctuation, and animals were normal and healthy.

MicroRNAs, found in all plants and animals, may have evolved as tiny buffers within multicellular organisms to allow the remarkable unity of form in a constantly changing environment.

"This idea has health implications as well," said Carthew. "Cancer cells are notoriously heterogeneous and do not act in controllable ways. Interestingly, microRNAs are among the most frequently mutated targets in cancers, leading some to speculate that their absence is linked to cancer's heterogeneous behavior."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Snippet Of RNA Helps Make Individuals Remarkably Alike." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090505130714.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2009, May 6). Snippet Of RNA Helps Make Individuals Remarkably Alike. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090505130714.htm
Northwestern University. "Snippet Of RNA Helps Make Individuals Remarkably Alike." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090505130714.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins