Recently, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences (UPMC), Helicos Biosciences Corp., Integromics Inc., and the University of Geneva Medical School published an article in Nature showing that mammalian cells are capable of synthesizing RNA by copying RNA molecules directly.
Contrary to the widely held belief that small RNA molecules (sRNA) of under 200 nucleotides are simply degradation products, previous studies have shown that sRNAs may have both a functional role and predict the existence of novel biochemical cellular pathways. In this recent study, researchers profiled small RNAs from human cells and tissues, uncovering several new classes of RNAs, including antisense termini-associated short RNAs, which are likely derived from messenger RNAs of protein-coding genes by yet uncharacterized, pervasive RNA-copying mechanisms in human cancer cell lines.
According to co-author Bino John, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Computational and Systems Biology, Pitt School of Medicine, “for the first time, we have evidence to support the hypothesis that human cells have the widespread ability to copy RNA as well as DNA. These findings emphasize the complexity of human RNA populations and suggest the important role for single-molecule sequencing for accurate and comprehensive genetic profiling.”
Read more on the UPMC website.