Researchers from Biozentrum, University of Basel, have developed new method to calculate the half-life of RNA molecules.

Image: University of Basel

They implemented the method in calculating the life of RNA which brought in light, the lifespan of RNA to be ten times shorter than previously estimated.

The research team at Biozentrum, University of Base led by Prof. Attila Becskei tested the traditional methods against the new method which demonstrated that the RNA molecules barely live as long as two minutes, ten fold shorter than the conventional method estimation of 20 minutes. The new method implemented was the "gene control method".

The results of the research were published in the journal Science Advances titled "Multiplexed gene control reveals rapid mRNA turnover" on 12 July 2017.

In the past, scientists applied two main methods for measuring the half life of RNA, The transcriptional inhibition method utilized certain substances to inhibit the RNA production from the cell genome. The main drawback pointed out by Becskei in this method is that the inhibition of RNA disturbs the overall

functioning of the cell which alters the results. Yet another method practiced was the "in vivo labeling" method where the RNA were labelled and traced. The labelling method produced falsified results because the modified labeling molecules interfered with the RNA function.

RNA molecules are the DNA transcripts which function as template for the synthesis of cell essential proteins. They are the key elements in the gene transfer and expression. Once their role es, they are degraded by an exosome.

The "gene control method" used by the team of Becskei targeted only one RNA at a time. The synthesis of RNA was controlled by regulation of switches on the gene in DNA which produced RNA. Once the RNA production stopped, the lifespan of already synthesized RNA was measured.

In Becskei own words- "The experiments were repeated for some 50 different genes and showed that 80 percent of all RNAs undergo a rapid turnover, living less than 2 minutes and can be classified as short-lived. Only about 20 percent live longer, for about 5 to 10 minutes. "These results are astounding, if you consider that until now it was assumed that on average RNAs survived 20 minutes in the cell,"


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