In a major development, scientists have discovered an unusual gene that controls the generation of neurons in brain.
The study, published in Molecular Cell, says that RMST is a key component of a gene regulatory network which controls the birth of new neurons.
The ‘birth of neurons’ in the brain (known as neurogenesis) is a process that requires exquisite control of hundreds of genes. The expression of these genes is controlled by regulatory networks, usually involving proteins, which play critical roles in establishing and maintaining the nervous system. However, the RMST gene does not encode a protein. Rather, it is a typical, long non-coding RNA. Hence RMST RNA molecule does not produce a protein to handle the regulatory process. Instead, it acts directly as a regulatory mechanism.
The study can be path breaking as its findings can provide insights for understanding brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“There is now great excitement about the revelation that RNA is more than just a messenger carrying genetic information that encodes for proteins. New classes of RNA, called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA), have been discovered, which are capable of unanticipated functional diversity,” said Professor Lawrence Stanton, the senior author of the study.
“However, systematic functional investigations of exactly what, and how, lncRNAs do in our cells remain scant. Our study paves the way for understanding a crucial role played by a lncRNA in human neurons.”