The value of the unimportant

Often, it is easy to get caught up studying the “movers and shakers” of our favorite biological system while tragically ignoring the role of a smaller player and wrongfully endowing it with the title of an “unimportant” molecule. Yet until every biological nook and cranny are uncovered, nothing should ever be dismissed as irrelevant.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania had a chance to demonstrate this principle recently as they revealed that a scarce, small RNA, called U6atac, controls the expression of hundreds of genes that have critical functions in cell growth, cell-cycle control, and global control of physiology.

While the major spliceosomes that control the process of removing the majority of introns from mRNA prior to their translation into protein have been studied for years, few scientists have ventured into the world of the minor spliceosome as it was thought to only control the post-transcriptional processing of very few mRNA molecules. Bucking the trend, Dr. Gideon Dreyfuss and his team from U Penn concentrated their efforts on studying the role of the minor spliceosomes and their results have revealed an heretofore undiscovered mechanism responsible for controlling the expression of hundreds of human genes.

To learn more read A Minor Thing of Major Importance: Penn Study Finds A New Gene Expression Mechanism.


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