A team of scientists from Russia studied the role of double-stranded fragments of maturing RNA and showed that the interaction between distant parts of the RNA can regulate gene expression. The research was published online on April 16, 2021 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Conserved Long-Range Base Pairings Are Associated with Pre-mRNA Processing of Human Genes” (https://www.nature.com/articles/S41467-021-22549-7). In school, students are typically taught that DNA is double-stranded and that RNA is single-stranded, but that is not entirely true. Scientists have encountered many cases of RNA forming a double-stranded (also known as “secondary”) structure (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nucleic_acid_secondary_structure) that plays an important role in the functioning of RNA molecules. These structures are involved in the regulation of gene expression, where the double-stranded regions typically carry out specific functions and, if lost, may cause severe disorders. A double-stranded structure is created by sticky complementary regions. For the RNA strands to stick to each other, U and G should appear opposite A and C, respectively. The majority of the sticking regions are located close to one another, but the role of those located far apart has not been well understood. Scientists from the Skoltech Center for Life Sciences (CLS) led by Professor Dmitri Pervouchine, PhD, and their colleagues from Russian and international laboratories used molecular and bioinformatics techniques to analyze the structure and roles of complementary RNA regions spaced far apart, but capable of forming secondary structures.
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