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NYU's Center for Comparative Functional Genomics helps to unravel the function of microRNAS

could be part of genes that drive organismal diversity. In particular, one microRNA was shown to have many more targets in flies than in mammals, and this microRNA was predicted to contribute to the regulation of fly oogenesis, a process that is highly different between flies and mammals.

The paper may be obtained at compbiol.plosjournals.org/

In carrying out the study, the Rajewsky group developed "PicTar," a new algorithm for the identification of microRNA target sites in the genome (published in Nature Genetics, spring 2005). The PicTar algorithm was based on a paper by Rajewsky, who also holds an affiliated appointment at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and his collaborator Nicholas Socci published in Developmental Biology in 2004, where they discovered key components of microRNA--target site recognition. When applying PicTar to seven vertebrate genomes, their Nature Genetics study found that each microRNA regulates, on average, 200 different human transcripts and that multiple microRNAs can coordinate their activities to regulate a specific target genes. Altogether, they showed that 20 to 30 percent of all vertebrate genes are likely to be regulated by microRNAS. The paper contains detailed genome-wide target predictions for all human microRNAs as well as tissue-specific predictions. Several predictions were validated experimentally by Rajewsky's collaborators at Rockefeller University. The findings demonstrate an unforeseen, staggering complexity of gene regulation executed by microRNAs on a genome-wide level.

Finally, collaborating with researchers at Rockefeller University, Lund University (Sweden), and Oxford University, Rajewsky recently helped to unravel the function of a microRNA gene that was shown to regulate the secretion of insulin in the pancreas. The findings, which for the first time defined a physiological function for a mammalian micro
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Contact: James Devitt
james.devitt@nyu.edu
212-998-6808
New York University
30-Jun-2005


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