Scientific research over the past decade has concentrated almost exclusively on the 2 percent of the genome's protein-coding regions, virtually ignoring the other 98 percent, a vast universe of non-coding genetic material previously dismissed as nothing more than “junk.” Now, a team led by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) reveals that one type of this “junk DNA”-- called long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) -- may be critically important for controlling cellular components in a tissue-specific manner. Published online on December 26, 2016 in the journal Nature, the new research points to lncRNA's key role in helping control processes related to muscle regeneration and cancer. The Nature article is titled “mTORC1 and Muscle Regeneration Are Regulated by the LINC00961-Encoded SPAR Polypeptide Long non-coding RNAs appear to be transcribed from our DNA in a similar manner to coding messenger RNAs, but are not translated into proteins. While lncRNA molecules do not produce correspondingly lengthy proteins, researchers have wondered whether some of these molecules may contain segments of sequences that can code for very short proteins, or polypeptides. "Whether such small, hidden polypeptides are actually functional, or represent 'translational noise' within the cell is still relatively unclear," said senior author Pier Paolo Pandolfi (photo), M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Cancer Center and Cancer Research Institute at BIDMC.
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