Search Results for: what percent of our genes code for proteins

Genome regions once mislabeled ‘junk’ linked to heart failure

By Julia Evangelou Strait

Large sections of the genome that were once referred to as “junk” DNA have been linked to human heart failure, according to research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

So-called junk DNA was long thought to have no important role in heredity or disease because it doesn’t code for proteins. But emerging research in recent years has revealed that many of these sections of the genome produce RNA molecules that, despite not being proteins, still have important functions in the body. RNA is a close chemical cousin to DNA.

lncRNA

Molecules now associated with these sections of the genome are called noncoding RNAs. They come in a variety of forms, some more widely studied than others. Of these, about 90 percent are called long noncoding RNAs, and exploration of their roles in health and disease is just beginning.

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Origins of Genomic ‘Dark Matter’ Discovered

lncRNA

from Science Daily

A duo of scientists at Penn State University has achieved a major milestone in understanding how genomic “dark matter” originates. This “dark matter” — called non-coding RNA — does not contain the blueprint for making proteins and yet it comprises more than 95 percent of the human genome. The researchers have discovered that essentially all coding and non-coding RNA originates at the same types of locations along the human genome. The team’s findings eventually may help to pinpoint exactly where complex-disease traits reside, since the genetic origins of many diseases reside outside of the coding region of the genome.

The research, which will be published as an Advance Online Publication in the journal Nature on 18 September 2013, was performed by B. Franklin Pugh, holder of the Willaman chair in Molecular Biology at Penn State, and postdoctoral scholar Bryan Venters, who now holds a faculty position at Vanderbilt University.

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Shedding Light on Unique RNAs

from Bioscience Technology

The genes that code for proteins—more than 20,000 in total—make up only about 1 percent of the complete human genome. That entire thing—not just the genes, but also genetic junk and all the rest—is coiled and folded up in any number of ways within the nucleus of each of our cells. Think, then, of the challenge that a protein or other molecule, like RNA, faces when searching through that material to locate a target gene.

Now, a team of researchers led by newly arrived biologist Mitchell Guttman of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Kathrin Plath of UCLA, has figured out how some RNA molecules take advantage of their position within the three-dimensional mishmash of genomic material to home in on targets. The research appears in the current issue of Science Express.

lncRNAThe findings suggests a unique role for a class of RNAs, called lncRNAs, which Guttman and his colleagues at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard first characterized in 2009. Until then, these lncRNAs—short for long, noncoding RNAs and pronounced “link RNAs”— had been largely overlooked because they lie in between the genes that code for proteins. Guttman and others have since shown that lncRNAs scaffold, or bring together and organize, key proteins involved in the packaging of genetic information to regulate gene expression—controlling cell fate in some stem cells, for example.

In the new work, the researchers found that lncRNAs can easily locate and bind to nearby genes. Then, with the help of proteins that reorganize genetic material, the molecules can pull in additional related genes and move to new sites, building up a “compartment” where many genes can be regulated all at once.

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Reading DNA, backward and forward

lncRNA

MIT biologists reveal how cells control the direction in which the genome is read.

by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

MIT biologists have discovered a mechanism that allows cells to read their own DNA in the correct direction and prevents them from copying most of the so-called “junk DNA” that makes up long stretches of our genome.

Only about 15 percent of the human genome consists of protein-coding genes, but in recent years scientists have found that a surprising amount of the junk, or intergenic DNA, does get copied into RNA — the molecule that carries DNA’s messages to the rest of the cell.

Scientists have been trying to figure out just what this RNA might be doing, if anything. In 2008, MIT researchers led by Institute Professor Phillip Sharp discovered that much of this RNA is generated through a process called divergent expression, through which cells read their DNA in both directions moving away from a given starting point.

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RNA promotes metastasis in lung cancer

Lungs

The vast majority – approximately 80 percent – of our DNA does not code for proteins, yet it gets transcribed into RNA. These RNA molecules are called non-coding and fulfill multiple tasks in the cell. Alongside a well-studied group of small RNAs, there is also a class of so-called long non-coding RNAs consisting of more than 200 nucleotides.

Long non-coding RNAs regulate cellular processes such as cell cycle, growth and cell death. Therefore, it came as no surprise that many of these controlling molecules are linked to the progression of cancer. An example is the non-coding RNA MALAT1, which is considered a marker for disease progression in various forms of lung cancer: “The more MALAT1 tumor cells produce, the higher the odds for metastasis and a very unfavorable course of the disease,” says Dr. Sven Diederichs, who discovered the molecule as part of his doctoral thesis. Diederichs now leads a junior research group at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) and the Institute of Pathology of Heidelberg University.

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