New knowledge about the interactions of messenger RNAs and micro-RNAs during brain development

Medical Xpress | January 28, 2019

One of the big challenges in neurobiology is cell classification, a problem compounded by the fact that the same cell type can look different depending on the method of analysis used to classify it whether by cell shape, gene expression profile, electrophysiological firing pattern, or selective vulnerability to certain diseases. "There are many individual cell types in the brain, and we don't know how to identify them all," said Kenneth S. Kosik, Harriman Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at UC Santa Barbara and co-director of the campus's Neuroscience Research Institute. In classification paradigms that focus on which genes express themselves to define cell type, researchers have looked at messenger RNAs (mRNAs). But in a project described in the paper "Regulation of Cell Type-Specific Transcriptomes by MicroRNA Networks During Human Brain Development," Kosik and his co-authors "brought an additional parameter—micro-RNAs (miRNAs)—to the problem of classification. Researchers had not previously looked at miRNAs at the single-cell level to get at cell-type specificity." If DNA is the architect holding the genetic blueprint for species replication, then RNA is the on-the-ground builder, responsible sometimes for initiating, and other times for carrying out or delegating, multiple processes essential for creating fully realized living forms.

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