DNA found outside genes plays largely unknown, potentially vital roles

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Posted June 27, 2013
RNA expert Michael McManus, Ph.D., is an UCSF associate professor of microbiology and immunology and a member of the UCSF Diabetes Center. Credit: UCSF

RNA expert Michael McManus, Ph.D., is an UCSF associate professor of microbiology and immunology and a member of the UCSF Diabetes Center. Credit: UCSF

A new UC San Francisco study highlights the potential importance of the vast majority of human DNA that lies outside of genes within the cell.

The researchers found that about 85 percent of these stretches of DNA make RNA, a molecule that increasingly is being found to play important roles within cells. They also determined that this RNA-making DNA is more likely than other non-gene DNA regions to be associated with inherited disease risks.

The study, published in the free online journal PLOS Genetics on June 20, 2013, is one of the most extensive examinations of the human genome ever undertaken to see which stretches of DNA outside of genes make RNA and which do not.

The researchers—senior author and RNA expert Michael McManus, PhD, UCSF associate professor of microbiology and immunology and a member of the UCSF Diabetes Center, graduate student Ian Vaughn, and postdoctoral fellow Matthew Hangauer, PhD—identified thousands of previously unknown, unique RNA sequences.

“Now that we realize that all these RNA molecules exist and have identified them, the struggle is to understand which are going to have a function that is important,” McManus said. “It may take decades to determine this.”

Read more at: Phys.org



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