Focus Regulatory RNA
Univ.Prof.Dr. Michael Jantsch, Scientific Coordinator of the SFB “RNA regulation of the transcriptome”, a special research programme funded by the FWF – The Austrian Science Fund.
RNA Regulation of the Transcriptome
The classic view of the flow of genetic information was a message from the gene, carried by mRNA, which lead to the formation of a protein. However, we now know that many RNAs are terminal gene products, meaning that they exert functions themselves rather than forming a protein to do it for them. They may perform a variety of different roles, regulating other RNAs and proteins, catalysing chemical reactions, guiding other RNAs to their place of action, or silencing small genomic regions or whole chromosomes. This has led to the new view of genetic information as moving from the gene, via the RNA it expresses, to a function.
The special research program RNA-REG uses model organisms as diverse as bacteria, insects, nematodes, plants and mammals to study how RNA controls the flow of genetic information. All cellular processes that affect the transcriptome and are modulated by regulatory RNAs, – from epigenetic phenomena, chromatin structure and transcription to RNA processing, transport, decay and translation – is analysed in depth with the goal of defining the RNA regulon.
The unifying theme of RNA-REG is to reveal the function of regulatory RNAs, understand the mechanism(s) by which these regulations are achieved and how diverse RNA-mediated processes interconnect to result in the observed phenotypes. This will shed light on how RNAs control the flow of genomic information and how these RNAs are regulated themselves and ultimately, allow a molecular understanding of developmental dysfunctions and diseases that arise from errors in these circuits.
Thirteen groups from five institutions working on the diverse aspects of RNA biology are pooling their expertises and experiences to reach this goal. Technical progress in deep sequencing, mapping RNA-protein interactions and biocomputing, together with the emerging view that RNAs regulate most biological processes, make this RNA-centric view of life timely, because they allow the application of unbiased large-scale approaches to unravel the full degree of complexity in RNA-mediated processes.
Univ.Prof.Dr. Renée Schroeder, the former Scientific Coordinator of this SFB “RNA regulation of the transcriptome”:
<<Our RNA-centric view of Life prompts us to study how RNA molecules regulate essential processes in all living cells.>>