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NYU's Center for Comparative Functional Genomics part of $57 million MOD-ENCODE consortium

organisms, which should aid our efforts to tackle such questions in humans."

Piano and his research team at NYUs Center for Comparative Functional Genomics will develop an encyclopedia of a specific part of the genome of the round worm C. elegans called the 3UTR. 3UTR is a section of all animal genomes where special regulatory genes called microRNAs (miRNA) bind to messenger RNA (mRNA) and regulate whether a gene is to be expressed or not. Thus, the 3UTR is the area where regulatory sequences act as switches to ultimately turn on or off the production of protein from a specific gene. This level of regulation is especially prevalent in embryogenesis. C. elegans is the first animal species whose genome was completely sequenced and a model organism to study how embryos develop.

Pianos earlier research predicted, using computational analysis, miRNA functions of C. elegans genes. This work was in collaboration with other members of the Center for Comparative Functional Genomics at NYU. The researchers found that one-third of C. elegans miRNAs target gene sets have related functions. That is, it appears that miRNAs can control groups of genes that work in a specific biological process. At least 10 percent of C. elegans genes are predicted miRNA targets.

To confirm the computational predictions, the NYU team developed a new in vivo analysis system comparing the expression of a reporter, green fluorescent protein (GFP) carrying target 3 UTRs with controls that did not carry the target 3UTRs. The laboratory results confirmed the role of specific 3 UTRs in suppressing gene expression even more widely than predicted by the computational analysis, suggesting that 3 UTRs contain a largely unexplored universe for gene regulation.


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Contact: James Devitt
james.devitt@nyu.edu
212-998-6808
New York University
14-May-2007


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