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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

The cell's 'New World'

• http://www.bio-medicine.org,Sonia Furtado Neves
 In one of the most famous faux pas of exploration, Columbus set sail for India and instead 'discovered' America. Similarly, when scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, set out to find enzymes the proteins that carry out chemical reactions inside cells that bind to RNA, they too found more than they expected: 300 proteins previously unknown to bind to RNA more than half as many as were already known to do so. The study, published online today in Cell, could help to explain the role of genes that have been linked to diseases like diabetes and glaucoma.

"We are very excited that, unlike Columbus, we found what we were looking for: well-known enzymes that bind to RNA," says Matthias Hentze, who led the study at EMBL with Jeroen Krijgsveld. "But we never thought there was still so much unexplored territory, so many of these RNA-binding proteins to be discovered."

Almost 50 of the new proteins Hentze and Krijgsveld found are encoded by genes known to be mutated in patients suffering from a variety of diseases, from diabetes and glaucoma to prostate and pancreatic cancers. This finding opens new avenues for researchers studying these disorders. It raises the possibility that such conditions could be caused by a malfunction not in the protein's previously established function, but in its potential role in RNA control.

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