Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New class of objects encoded within the genome: Non-coding RNA molecules function similar to gene enhancer elements

Date:
October 6, 2010
Source:
The Wistar Institute
Summary:
Researchers have discovered the ability of long non-coding RNA (ncRNA), encoded within our genome, to promote gene expression. The researchers believe these long ncRNA molecules may represent so-called gene enhancer elements -- short regions of DNA that can increase gene transcription. While scientists have known about gene enhancers for decades, there has been no consensus about how these enhancers work.

Despite progress in decoding the genome, scientists estimate that fully 95 percent of our DNA represents dark, unknown territory. In the October 1 issue of the journal Cell researchers at The Wistar Institute shed new light on the genetic unknown with the discovery of the ability of long non-coding RNA (ncRNA) to promote gene expression. The researchers believe these long ncRNA molecules may represent so-called gene enhancer elements -- short regions of DNA that can increase gene transcription. While scientists have known about gene enhancers for decades, there has been no consensus about how these enhancers work.

These findings join a growing body of evidence that the classic "central dogma" of genetics is incomplete. In the central dogma, chromosomal DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is then translated by the cell into proteins. In recent years, however, scientists have found that not all transcribed RNA molecules become translated into proteins. In fact, studies have shown that whole swathes of the genome are transcribed for unknown reasons.

In the present study, the Wistar researchers pinpoint 3,000 long ncRNAs and estimate that there could be a total of between 10,000 to 12,000 long ncRNA sequences within our DNA. This number is comparable to the 20,000 genes that are known to encode proteins. Most long ncRNAs are encoded in DNA near genes known to be important to both stem cells and cancer. This observation also suggests that targeting ncRNAs may represent a new strategy in slowing cancer growth.

"We are excited, first of all, because this is a new discovery about the very nature of human DNA; a new class of genetic object and a new layer of genetic regulation," said Ramin Shiekhattar, Ph.D., Wistar's Herbert Kean, M.D., Family Professor and senior author of the study.

"Secondly, we may have solved, in part, a great mystery in modern genetics. These long non-coding RNA sequences may account for the activity of enhancer elements, which have been well-studied but never quite characterized," Shiekhattar said.

Almost three years ago, while at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, Shiekhattar began a prospective hunt for non-coding RNA sequences using GENCODE, a database that annotates the human genome with currently available scientific evidence. After filtering out protein-coding transcripts and non-coding RNAs that might overlap known protein-coding genes, they found approximately 3,000 long ncRNA sequences. At the time, GENCODE only accounted for a third of the genome, so Shiekhattar estimates that there are likely more.

The researchers mapped the ncRNA sites within the genome, and found that ncRNAs tended to be located near genes that influence how stem cells change into other cell types. Shiekhattar and his colleagues then developed new assays to screen cell cultures for these ncRNA sequences, and discovered that ncRNAs were found extensively in a variety of cell types.

The idea that molecules of RNA can have a DNA-regulating effect is well established. More than 1,000 so-called microRNAs are known to science, for example, and their effect on silencing genes has been well described. According to Shiekhattar, he assumed that long ncRNAs would also silence genes, not promote their activation. To his surprise, the researchers found that depleting a cell of ncRNAs actually decreased the degree of overall gene expression of neighboring genes, revealing a role for ncRNAs in potentiating gene expression.

In fact, when Shiekhattar and his colleagues depleted adult stem cells of a specific long ncRNA, known as ncRNA-activating 7 (ncRNA-a7), it had the same effect as depleting the protein product of a nearby gene, Snai1, which regulates how the cells migrate. Their studies further showed that inserting an ncRNA next to a gene for luciferase -- the enzyme responsible for a firefly's glow -- increased the amount of protein produced by that gene in cells grown in culture. While not all long ncRNAs may act like enhancers, the majority of the ones the team studied do, Shiekhattar says.

"We know long non-coding RNAs can promote gene expression, but what we need to know now is how they do it," Shiekhattar said, "which is precisely the object of our ongoing research plan."

Wistar co-authors include Ulf Andersson Ψrom, Ph.D., first author and postdoctoral fellow in the Shiekhattar laboratory; Qihong Huang, M.D., Ph.D., a Wistar professor; Kiranmai Gumireddy, Ph.D., a senior staff scientist in the Huang laboratory; Malte Beringer, Ph.D., Alessandro Gardini, Ph.D., and Fan Lai, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellows in the Shiekhattar laboratory. Co-authors from the Centre for Genomic Regulation include Thomas Derrien, Ph.D., Giovanni Bussotti, Ph.D., Matthias Zytnicki, Ph.D., Cedric Notredame, Ph.D., and Roderic Guigo, Ph.D.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the American Italian Cancer Foundation, and the Danish Council for Independent Research.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ulf Andersson Ψrom, Thomas Derrien, Malte Beringer, Kiranmai Gumireddy, Alessandro Gardini, Giovanni Bussotti, Fan Lai, Matthias Zytnicki, Cedric Notredame, Qihong Huang. Long Noncoding RNAs with Enhancer-like Function in Human Cells. Cell, 2010; 143 (1): 46 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.09.001

Cite This Page:

The Wistar Institute. "New class of objects encoded within the genome: Non-coding RNA molecules function similar to gene enhancer elements." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101003081925.htm>.
The Wistar Institute. (2010, October 6). New class of objects encoded within the genome: Non-coding RNA molecules function similar to gene enhancer elements. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101003081925.htm
The Wistar Institute. "New class of objects encoded within the genome: Non-coding RNA molecules function similar to gene enhancer elements." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101003081925.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) — America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. 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