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ILS researchers discover RNA circles directly regulating protein-coding mRNAs, ET HealthWorld

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Bhubaneshwar: Researchers from the Institute of Life Sciences (ILS) Bhubaneswar, an institution functioning under ministry of science and technology, has discovered direct regulation of protein-coding messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNAs) by RNA circles.

The intricate interplay between different types of cell molecules like deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a molecule that carries genetic information for the development and functioning of an organism, ribonucleic acid (RNA) or protein, continues to fascinate researchers worldwide.

The protein-coding messenger mRNAs were in the limelight during the last several decades. mRNA is a molecule in cells that encodes genetic information for translation into functional proteins in cells.

But with the advances in sequencing technologies, the existence and importance of noncoding RNAs have attracted the attention of scientists in the last two decades. Now thousands of different noncoding RNAs have been reported and more are being discovered using highly efficient nucleic acid sequencing platforms.

Amaresh Panda from the ILS Bhubaneswar said a category of noncoding RNAs belonging to closed-loop RNA structures without any free ends are termed as Circular RNAs or RNA circles. “For decades, RNA circles were considered as mistakes of genetic machinery with no significant biological functions,” he added.

Given their robust presence in cells, Panda said, RNA circles became a subject of fascination for many biologists, and this led to some surprising discoveries about them. In recent years, many labs found that RNA circles show varying levels of expression between healthy and diseased conditions, thus posing as suitable agents for diagnosis and treatment, he added.

Panda said the indirect regulation of gene expression by RNA circles has been well-documented in various biological processes and diseases. From knowing all the unique qualities of RNA circles came the question – Can these circles directly interact and regulate protein-coding mRNAs in the cell?

Over the last few years, Panda and his research team have been interested in understanding the biological functions of these RNA circles in pancreatic beta-cells and muscle cell regeneration. ILS researchers have developed a sequencing method called ‘CLiPPR-Seq’ highlighting widespread direct interaction between RNA circles with protein-coding mRNAs in mouse and human cells that could have broad implications across various biological processes, said the researcher.

Their research has been published in the prestigious journal Nucleic Acids Research. “By unravelling the intricacies of this interaction between RNA circles and messenger RNAs, we aim to gain further insights into fundamental biological processes and uncover novel therapeutic opportunities,” said Panda.

  • Published On Feb 9, 2024 at 06:24 PM IST

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