MBL scientists find evidence of RNA in organelle essential to cell division

the consensus is that centrosomes lack DNA, the question of whether they contain RNA has never been adequately answered. "The RNA question has always been controversial, but we couldn't close the door on it," says Dr. Palazzo. "This is the first really good evidence that nucleic acid co-purifies with the centrosome, which means it is physically present."

The centrosome study was initiated at the MBL, an international biological research center, where many scientists use locally abundant marine organisms like surf clams (Spisula solidissima) and their eggs as research models. Clam eggs are simple versions of human cells, and biologists who study cell division value them for several reasons. They develop fast, entering meiosis within less than a quarter hour after fertilization, and, once fertilized, divide synchronously every 30-50 minutes - providing billions of biochemically identical cells to study.

Using a technique Dr. Palazzo developed at the MBL, the scientists were able to isolate relatively large quantities of clam centrosomes. Skills developed in Dr. Alliegro's laboratory were then used to extract a unique set of RNAs and demonstrate their association with centrosomes biochemically and in situ.

"The next step will be to determine what role these RNAs might play in centrosome replication, the cell cycle, or the development of organisms," Dr. Alliegro says. Meanwhile, the scientists hope their paper serves to alert researchers working in other model systems that centrosomal RNA might exist and that it could be playing an important role in life processes.


Contact: Andrea Early
Marine Biological Laboratory

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