Case Western Reserve School of Medicine scientists have made an extraordinary double discovery. First, they have identified thousands of novel long non-coding ribonucleic acid (lncRNA) transcripts. Second, they have learned that some of them defy conventional wisdom regarding lncRNA transcripts, because they actually do direct the synthesis of proteins in cells.
Both of the breakthroughs are detailed in the June 12 issue of Cell Reports.
Kristian E. Baker, PhD, assistant professor in the Center for RNA Molecular Biology, led the team that applied high throughput gene expression analysis to yield these impressive findings, which ultimately could lead to treatments for cancer and some genetic disorders.
“Our work establishes that lncRNAs in yeast can encode proteins, and we provide evidence that this is probably true also in mammals, including humans,” Baker said. “Our investigation has expanded our knowledge of the genetic coding potential of already well-characterized genomes.”
Collaborating with researchers including Case Western Reserve University graduate and undergraduate students, Baker analyzed yeast and mouse cells, which serve as model organisms because of their functional resemblance to human cells.
Previously, lncRNAs were thought to lack the information and capacity to encode for proteins, distinguishing them from the messenger RNAs that are expressed from known genes and act primarily as templates for the synthesis of proteins. Yet this team demonstrated that a subset of these lncRNAs is engaged by the translation machinery and can function to produce protein products.
In the future, Baker and fellow investigators will continue to look for novel RNA transcripts and also search for a function for these lncRNAs and their protein products in cells.
“Discovery of more transcripts equates to the discovery of new and novel genes,” Baker said. “The significance of this work is that we have discovered evidence for the expression of previously undiscovered genes. Knowing that genes are expressed is the very first step in figuring out what they do in normal cellular function or in dysfunction and disease.”
This investigation was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (GM080465 and GM095621) and the National Science Foundation (NSF1253788).
About Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation’s top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School’s innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes–research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism–to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the School of Medicine.
Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report’s “Guide to Graduate Education.”
The School of Medicine’s primary affiliate is University Hospitals Case Medical Center and is additionally affiliated with MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002. http://casemed.case.edu