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Dual discoveries in genetic processing improve accuracy of genome information

ARLINGTON, Va.-- University of Connecticut Health Center geneticists have made a two-fold discovery in gene recoding that will significantly increase understanding of the information in genome sequences and could prove to be a knowledge expressway scientists need for unraveling nervous system disorders such as Parkinson Disease and epilepsy.

The research, published in the Aug. 8 issue of the journal Science, was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

Geneticist Robert Reenan and fellow researchers used comparative genomics to discover a telltale signature of genes that are recoded as DNA is converted to RNA during the protein-making process. There, an enzyme converts adenosine to the nucleoside inosine by a process called "A-to-I" RNA editing. The scientists subsequently found that such recoding is largely confined to the nervous system across species and pinpointed a target of the process in humans.

"The proteins targeted by editing are basically the machinery that allow nervous systems to function on a timescale of milliseconds, which is not a demand placed on every organ," said Reenan.

The phylogenetic signatures are identical sequences of genetic coding found in each species studied, serving as markers corresponding to specific genes targeted for A-to-I RNA editing. The identical presence in both species suggests that the editing site arose some time ago evolutionarily and has been retained in these species -- and likely others -- because it provides a broadly useful selective advantage for survival.

Recoding, or "RNA editing," and the entire process are much like photocopying a recipe from a cookbook and writing changes on the photocopy rather than on the book's pages. The revisions on the copy would then be used to prepare the food, but the original recipe in the book wo
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Contact: Manny Van Pelt
mvanpelt@nsf.gov
703-292-7732
National Science Foundation
7-Aug-2003


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