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'Pregnant' protein-coding genes carry RNA 'babies'

BEIJING, China Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have performed a comprehensive analysis of small, non-protein-coding RNAs in the model nematode, C. elegans. They characterize 100 heretofore-undescribed transcripts, including two novel classes; they provide insights into the genomic structure and transcriptional regulation of non-coding RNAs; and they underscore the importance of non-coding RNAs in nematode development. Their work appears this month in the journal Genome Research.

"The significance of non-protein-coding RNAs as central components of various cellular processes has risen sharply over the recent years," explains Prof. Runsheng Chen, principal investigator on the study. Excluding microRNAs (miRNAs), or small transcripts that have recently received widespread attention and are known to play important roles in transcriptional regulation, small non-coding RNAs (or ncRNAs) in C. elegans have not been extensively investigated until now.

Using a new, high-throughput procedure to clone small, full-length ncRNAs, Chen's laboratory isolated and characterized 161 unique transcripts. A major advantage of the new cloning procedure is that it achieves an extraordinarily high detection rate for ncRNAs by current standards. "Studies published over recent years have only been able to reach a detection rate of about 3%, but our method reached a detection rate of 30% a 10-fold increase in cloning efficiency," explains Chen. "It's like going from a Model T Ford to a Ferrari in one fell swoop!"

Of the 161 transcripts detected by Chen's group, 100 were novel and 61 were previously known or predicted. Among the 100 novel genes, 30 had no known function, whereas 70 belonged to the ubiquitous class of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs). Based on sequence and structural features, Chen and his colleagues were able to classify more than half of the 30 unknown RNAs into two new categories: stem-bulge RNAs (
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Contact: Maria Smit
smit@cshl.edu
516-422-4013
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
9-Jan-2006


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