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Largest, Most Accurate List of RNA Editing Sites

September 29, 2013
How to spot RNA editing

The two two dark humps in the top row (representing fly RNA) are missing in flies that lack the enzyme to edit RNA (middle row) and missing in the DNA of normal flies. The analysis suggests they are sites of RNA editing. Credit: Reenan lab/Brown University

Researchers, including doctoral student Georges St. Laurent (Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry), have compiled the largest and most rigorously validated list to date of genetic sites in fruit flies where the RNA transcribed from DNA is then edited by an enzyme to affect a wide variety of fundamental biological functions. The list yielded several biological insights and can aid further research on RNA transcription because flies are a common model in that work.
The “master list” totals 3,581 sites in which the enzyme ADAR might swap an “A” nucleotide for a “G” in an RNA molecule. Such a seemingly small tweak means a lot because it changes how genetic instructions in DNA are put into action in the fly body, affecting many fundamental functions including proper neural and gender development. In humans, perturbed RNA editing has been strongly implicated in the diseases ALS and Acardi-Gutieres disease.

The new list of editing sites could therefore help thousands of researchers studying the RNA molecules that are transcribed from DNA, the so-called “transcriptome,” by providing reliable information about the thousands of editing changes that can occur. Robert Reenan, professor of biology in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry is the corresponding author on the paper published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

Read more of David Orenstein's article on fruit fly RNA.