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Advances In "Micro" RNA Exploring Process Of Life
Science Daily ^ | 9/23/2002

Posted on 09/23/2002 11:51:18 AM PDT by sourcery

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have made an important advance in the understanding of "micro-RNA" molecules, which are tiny bits of genetic material that were literally unknown 10 years ago but now represent one of the most exciting new fields of study in biology. The findings will be reported Friday in the journal Science.

They reveal for the first time a new mechanism by which micro-RNA can stop the function of messenger-RNA by literally cutting it in half, interfering with the normal function of specific messenger RNAs in gene expression.

This "expression" of genes that code for essential proteins is ultimately what controls whether a cell turns into a lung, liver, brain or other cell. Understanding what activates this process – or stops it – is a key to understanding the biological process of life itself, and forms the foundation for advances in medicine, agriculture and other fields.

On this frontier of biology, experts say, the most intriguing new component is micro-RNA, a minuscule type of regulatory molecule that had seemed insignificant even in the extraordinarily tiny, microscopic world of cell biology.

The first micro-RNA, in fact, was only discovered in 1993 and at the time was thought to be a biological oddity in worms. A couple hundred have since been discovered in both plants and animals. But it has only been in just the past few months that scientists working in this area have come to understand the potentially profound importance of micro-RNA.

"For a long time, people really did not know that these micro-RNAs were even there," said James Carrington, professor and director of the OSU Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology. "They were under the radar, and observations of them were limited by our technology. But as we learn more about these regulatory molecules, we're beginning to understand the scope of their biological importance. In molecular biology, micro-RNAs are clearly one of the top two or three discoveries of the past decade."

Every normal cell in complex organisms, such as plants, flies and humans, has a complete copy of the DNA for the entire organism, some 15,000 to 35,000 genes that collectively are thought of as the genetic blueprint for life. But to serve as certain types of cells, such as brain in humans or roots in plants, only a much smaller number of genes within each cell are actually "expressed," or allowed to create the proteins that perform these separate life functions.

"A key focus in biology for a long time has been what controls gene expression," Carrington said.

It is well understood, Carrington said, that two of the key steps between DNA and a functional cell are the processes of transcription and translation. In transcription, single-stranded "messenger RNA" molecules that correspond to each expressed gene are produced. And in translation, the messenger RNA is decoded, resulting in the production of a protein made from some combination of 20 amino acids.

"This is a very complex series of biological processes that requires hundreds of proteins and other factors," Carrington said. "And we're now also learning the role of micro-RNA in controlling expression of some important genes."

Micro-RNAs are actually produced by the transcription of tiny genes, in regions of the genome that were previously thought to be vacant or useless DNA. However, unlike messenger RNAs, micro-RNAs are not translated to produce proteins. Instead, researchers are finding that these micro-RNAs have critical functions in controlling the process of gene expression.

In some recent studies, other scientists found that micro-RNAs can bind to specific messenger RNAs to block the translation or decoding process. In the latest advance made by the OSU researchers, micro-RNAs in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana were found to destroy messenger RNAs instead of blocking its function, by literally cutting it in half.

"Much of our understanding of cell biology is related to this area we call negative regulation, or the processes that stops genes from being expressed," Carrington said. "Anything that improves our knowledge of this process could be quite significant."

For one thing, Carrington said, micro-RNAs might be intimately involved in the normal function of stem cells, those biologically unique cells that, when reproducing, can produce either more stem cells or begin a line of cells that is differentiated into something else, a brain, lung or liver cell.

"It's very important that we learn how cells differentiate and grow normally," Carrington said. "Just about everything in the human body has a genetic component. Genetic abnormalities relate to birth and developmental defects, susceptibility to disease, misregulation of genes. And these same processes are also at work in all other life forms, including plants, and new findings could be applied to crop biotechnology or even traditional plant breeding."

Continued research, Carrington said, will almost undoubtedly find human genetic defects that can be traced to dysfunction of micro-RNAs.

This broad area of research, officials say, has such promise that major new studies are being developed across the nation.

OSU was recently the recipient of a 4-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study micro-RNAs in Arabidopsis, a plant that works well as a model for genetic research, and the researchers will try to identify the functional messenger RNA targets of different micro-RNAs.

Scientists expect that some of the life processes controlled by micro-RNAs in plants will have been conserved across millions of years of evolution and operate the same way in animals, including humans.


Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Oregon State University for journalists and other members of the public. If you wish to quote from any part of this story, please credit Oregon State University as the original source. You may also wish to include the following link in any citation:

TOPICS: Science
KEYWORDS: crevolist
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To: AndrewC; All
Oh, schnikies! I didn't realize JG was booted, too....

WTF is going on around here!?!
41 posted on 09/24/2002 3:03:30 PM PDT by Condorman
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To: Condorman
WTF is going on around here!?!

I believe it has to do with the subject we have been discussing.

42 posted on 09/24/2002 3:07:50 PM PDT by AndrewC
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To: AndrewC
Dunno, man... dunno...

Obviously I wasn't part of the discussion, although from what little I have gathered in the matter of JediGirl, her last few public posts did not seem to merit a ban.

Or did the mods just get suddenly humorless and arbitrary when I blinked that time? If memory serves, there was a rather melodramatic row over on Slashdot several months back revolving around similar concerns...
43 posted on 09/24/2002 4:28:06 PM PDT by Condorman
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To: Condorman

Click on the name to get the last unpulled posts to see what was discussed. Backup method would be ---

It appears as if JR is fed up with Democrats and their enablers.

44 posted on 09/24/2002 4:37:15 PM PDT by AndrewC
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To: AndrewC
It appears as if JR is fed up with Democrats and their enablers.

Hard to say what the motives are; all we know is what is publically available. If this keeps up I predict that the appearance of heavy-handed tactics (am I allowed to say "cleansing"?), deserved or not, may cause FR to lose more than just those posters who are banned.

45 posted on 09/24/2002 4:46:02 PM PDT by Condorman
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To: Condorman
Well, it is happening. I don't know how many have gone down today, but it appears to be a cleansing. I think the stupid death penalty decision by a federal judge may have been the last straw. You know how I feel about free debate, but I am not in control.
46 posted on 09/24/2002 5:00:28 PM PDT by AndrewC
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To: Condorman
Well, I have a few observations on the matter also:

Why did the moderators get involved?
Because the evolutionists kept crying to them for months.

Why did the evolutionists cry to the moderators?
Because what medved was saying was absolutely true and they could not refute it.

I saw the 'God Hates Idiots' post many times, however, I never saw the evolutionists try to refute it (except for some stupid link which was so ridiculous the author did not dare post it but gave it a name as if it was - a typical evolutionist tactic). I never saw the evolutionists refute it. All I ever saw was the evolutionists trying to silence him.

47 posted on 09/24/2002 6:27:00 PM PDT by gore3000
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To: gore3000
[yawn] Are you still talking?
48 posted on 09/24/2002 6:32:25 PM PDT by Condorman
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To: Condorman
Dude... medved didn't debate.

Not true. Much more accurate would be that the evolutionists did not debate medved. They just pushed the abuse button, accused him of spamming and insulted. When called on to support his statements, medved would do so.

49 posted on 09/24/2002 6:40:26 PM PDT by gore3000
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To: gore3000
Why did the moderators get involved? Because the evolutionists kept crying to them for months.

Medved was the one complaining to the moderators. When I tried to point out his own offensive statements by cutting and pasting from his own posts, he complained that I was being offensive.

Don't know why he got the boot though. Maybe he's delivering a paper to a conference on Near Eastern Art and Archaeology.

50 posted on 09/25/2002 7:53:27 PM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: <1/1,000,000th%
Medved was the one complaining to the moderators.

Seems that evolutionists think that anyone who does not take their constant insults is doing something wrong. The one that picks a fight is the one that should be punished, not the victim. That is a central theme of conservatism - you do not blame the victim, you blame the perpetrator. Medved was constantly abused for trying to speak his views. If he tried to put a stop to it once in a while he certainly was correct in doing so. The evolutionists though constantly ganged up on him and constantly pushed the abuse button on him. They did this quite openly and is all over the evo threads (the ones that have not been deleted due to the constant abuse of posters by evolutionists).

51 posted on 09/25/2002 8:13:01 PM PDT by gore3000
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To: gore3000

I got post 50!!

52 posted on 09/25/2002 8:21:12 PM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: gore3000
So when medved gets called on factual errors it's abuse, but when medved (or you) shout "liar", "slimer", "idiot" and "thuggish evo Taliban" it's constructive criticism?

Do go on...

53 posted on 09/26/2002 2:40:38 PM PDT by Condorman
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