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RNA molecule behind behavior changes cued by environment

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Posted August 30, 2013
RNA molecule is behind behavior changes cued by environment

RNA molecule is behind behavior changes cued by environment
The L’Etoile Lab in the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology, from left: Mary Bethke,lab manager; Chantal Brueggemann, PhD, postdoctoral scholar; Noelle L’Etoile, PhD;Adriel-John Ablaza, staff research associate; and Katherine Mellman, graduate student.

Quick changes in behavior – in worms, at least – can be triggered by a unique form of the molecule RNA acting within the nucleus of a cell, UC San Francisco researchers have discovered.

The finding adds to mounting evidence for the importance of RNA in controlling gene activity, for its likely role in disease and for its potential as a therapeutic target.

Recognition of RNA’s importance has led the National Institutes of Health and other research organizations to fund more research directed toward better understanding the molecule’s role in disease and its therapeutic potential.

In a study published online on Aug. 29 in the journal Cell, scientists led by UCSF’s Noelle L’Etoile, PhD, found that the nerve cells of the tiny nematode worm C. elegans quickly learn to stop following a scent and eventually ignore it after an odor fails to lead the worm to food.

The researchers speculate that a similar biological mechanism involving RNA might drive long-lasting physiological changes in many types of human cells as they adapt to changes in the surrounding environment. “Our work indicates a mechanism by which environmentally relevant experiences may regulate gene expression, thereby shaping behavior in a specific and dynamic fashion,” said L’Etoile, an associate professor in the UCSF School of Dentistry’s Department of Cell & Tissue Biology.

Read more at: Phys.org

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