Editors' ChoiceRNA

Sorting Out Pre-Messenger RNA Processing

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Science's STKE  12 Aug 2003:
Vol. 2003, Issue 195, pp. tw319-TW319
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2003.195.tw319

Two methods have been developed to screen modifications that expand the number of protein products that arise from pre-mRNA molecules. The select group of pre-mRNAs that undergo adenosine to inosine (A-to-I) editing, an enzyme-mediated modification that can expand the repertoire of proteins encoded by a given gene, has been discovered largely by chance. Using a comparative genomics strategy, Hoopengardner et al. identified a signature sequence for RNA editing and used it to identify 16 new edited genes in fruit flies and 1 new edited gene in mammals. The nature of these genes suggests that a primary role of A-to-I RNA editing is the modification of fast signaling components within the nervous system. One way in which an organism as complex as the human being results from a relatively small complement of genes is through processes such as alternative pre-mRNA splicing, which can produce thousands of distinct protein isoforms from a single gene. To facilitate the study of the alternatively spliced transcriptome, Zhu et al. developed a single molecule-based technology, "digital polony exon-profiling," that allowed them to identify and quantify individual splicing variants. This technology will help future studies on the role of specific splicing events in normal development and in disease.

B. Hoopengardner, T. Bhalla, C. Staber, R. Reenan, Nervous system targets of RNA editing identified by comparative genomics. Science 301, 832-836 (2003). [Abstract] [Full Text]

J. Zhu, J. Shendure, R. D. Mitra, G. M. Church, Single molecule profiling of alternative pre-mRNA splicing. Science 301, 836-838 (2003). [Abstract] [Full Text]

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