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Yue Wan reveals molecular architecture of RNA with AI

14.12.2020 13:44

Branco Weiss Alumna Yue Wan and her team of researchers at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) have developed a new method to reveal ribonucleic acid (RNA) structures, and the way cells function using cutting-edge AI technologies.

One of the long-standing puzzles in biology is whether RNAs arising from the same gene could have different functions, and whether different structures have a major role to play in their diverse fate even if they share highly similar sequences. By threading the RNA structures through protein pores and decoding the resulting signal, the researchers have been able to shed light on the unique conformations that these molecules could adopt. They discovered that these molecules could have different structures despite being highly similar in sequence, and that these differences are associated with their unique function in the cell. As a proof of concept, the authors performed their studies on human embryonic stem cells and showed that many RNAs arising from the same gene contain different structures that can impact the amount of proteins that are made inside the cell.

This technology has broad applications in diverse systems. Besides human cells, many pathogens (including RNA viruses such as dengue and Zika) also contain different transcripts with highly shared sequences. Application of this technology to studying RNA viruses in the future can elucidate how these pathogens function and serve as a basis for further research on how to target them.

Read the paper in Nature Biotechnology

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