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Is there a fifth base in RNA?

From “RNA Modification Influences Thousands of Genes: Revolutionizes Understanding of Gene Expression” (ScienceDaily, May 17, 2012), we learn,

Over the past decade, research in the field of epigenetics has revealed that chemically modified bases are abundant components of the human genome and has forced us to abandon the notion we’ve had since high school genetics that DNA consists of only four bases.

Now, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have made a discovery that once again forces us to rewrite our textbooks. This time, however, the findings pertain to RNA, which like DNA carries information about our genes and how they are expressed. The researchers have identified a novel base modification in RNA which they say will revolutionize our understanding of gene expression.

Their report, published May 17 in the journal Cell, shows that messenger RNA (mRNA), long thought to be a simple blueprint for protein production, is often chemically modified by addition of a methyl group to one of its bases, adenine. Although mRNA was thought to contain only four nucleobases, their discovery shows that a fifth base, N6-methyladenosine (m6A), pervades the transcriptome. The researchers found that up to 20 percent of human mRNA is routinely methylated. Over 5,000 different mRNA molecules contain m6A, which means that this modification is likely to have widespread effects on how genes are expressed.

Well, we can either rewrite the textbooks, or write new laws protecting Darwinism. It won’t be our fault at UD if the latter strategy is chosen.

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4 Responses to Is there a fifth base in RNA?

  1. 1

    Not surprising, since we already knew this happens in DNA. It no more makes a “fifth base” than DNA methylation does. Science by press release strikes again!

  2. What does this have to do with “Darwinism”. UD hasn’t sunk to the point that is just trawls press releases looking for anything “new” in molecular biology and regurgitating it, has it?

  3. Sometimes, maybe. It sounded interesting, and we don’t deal with Darwinism all the time. Too boring. What do you make of the cells that might be a thousand years old?

  4. So, in the first sentence after the copy-paste ‘darwinism’ is just a sort of verbal tic? You didn’t mean to deal ‘darwinism’ you just wrote about it?

    1000 year old cells seem plausible enough to me, though obviously it hasn’t been proved.

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