Study: Interaction between distant parts of RNA can regulate gene expression

Russian researchers have now investigated the role of double-stranded fragments of the maturing RNA and demonstrated that the interaction between faraway parts of the RNA can control gene expression.

The study has been published in the Nature Communications journal.

During school years, it is taught that RNA is single-stranded and DNA is double-stranded. However, that is not completely true. Researchers have observed several cases of RNA forming a double-stranded (also called secondary) structure that has a crucial role in the working of RNA molecules.

These structures play a role in gene expression control, where the double-stranded regions essentially carry particular functions and might lead to acute disorders if lost. Sticky complementary regions develop a double-stranded structure.

U and G should occur exactly opposite to A and C, respectively, for the strands to attach to one another. Although most of the sticking regions are situated close to one another, the role played by those situated farther away has not been understood well.

Headed by professor Dmitri Pervouchine, researchers at the Skoltech Center for Life Sciences (CLS) and their collaborators from Russian and international laboratories employed bioinformatics and molecular techniques to investigate the structure and roles of complementary RNA regions located far apart but with the ability to form secondary structures.

The researchers found that the secondary structure has a crucial role in the maturation of RNA molecules that carry information and specifically in splicing—a process that involves removal of non-coding regions—and the coding regions are bound together. They demonstrated that the RNA secondary structures can control splicing and thus have a strong role in gene regulation.

This paper culminates years of research on the RNA secondary structure and its role in the regulation of gene expression. We have published an extensive computation-based catalog of potentially important RNA structures, but the experimental research in this direction is just starting.”

Dmitri Pervouchine, Professor, Skoltech Center for Life Sciences

Journal reference:

Kalmykova, S., et al. (2021) Conserved long-range base pairings are associated with pre-mRNA processing of human genes. Nature Communications.


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