RNA editing process provides better understanding of what makes us human

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RNA editing process provides better understanding of what makes us human

Species difference in RNA editing is one of the many findings in a recent study reported in A*STAR’s October 16 press release, Scientists uncover a new layer of Complexity Beyond the Human Genome.

“…from their cross-species analysis, [researchers] discovered that RNA editing is largely cis-directed, and not trans-directed. This means that in terms of [RNA] editing profiles, the human brain is more similar to the human lung than to the mouse brain or even the chimpanzee brain.”

RNA editing is defined as “a fundamental biological process whereby RNA molecules in the cell are modified so that their sequences do not match up perfectly with the DNA from which they are derived.”

“The genome contains all the necessary information that dictates cellular and organismal behaviour. Given the developmental and cognitive complexity of humans, one would have thought that our genome would contain many more protein-coding genes than most other living organisms. Surprisingly, however, the Human Genome Project has uncovered only approximately 20,000 protein-coding genes in our genome, a number not much different from other mammals, vertebrates, flies, or even worms. Part of the answer to this apparent paradox lies in the complex processing of RNA after it has been transcribed from the genome, which formed the basis for this study.”

The findings discussed here were published this month by Tan, et al. (2017) in the journal Nature. These researchers “performed multidimensional analyses of thousands of new and publicly available sequencing libraries to address major gaps in our fundamental knowledge of A-to-I editing.” Results from the various tissue-specific versus species-specific comparisons that were made are mixed, providing new opportunities as well as new answers in our understanding of the RNA editome.

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