Enigmatic gene critical for a healthy brain show University of Bath scientists

April 16, 2018

New research has shown how an unusual gene is needed for brain development in young mice.

Since the human genome was first sequenced in 2001, scientists have puzzled over swathes of our DNA that despite apparently lacking function are made into ribonucleic acid (RNA) by the cell. Why make RNA at all when it is not then used to make proteins, which perform fundamental biological tasks? Perhaps these so-called non-coding RNAs perform critical, but as yet unknown, tasks?

Scientists from the Universities of Bath, Oxford and Edinburgh have now identified one such non-coding RNA, called Paupar, which influences how healthy brains develop during early life. They have shown that Paupar orchestrates proteins that control neurodevelopment.

They studied KAP1, a gene that codes for an essential protein associated with several fundamental processes in neurodevelopment. The KAP1 protein acts as a regulator for several other genes which allow the brain to grow healthily and develop several types of brain cell.

Using molecular biology techniques they discovered that Paupar can act as a switch, modulating how KAP1 acts by binding to it- thus influencing the development of healthy brains in mice. It is the first time that a non-coding RNA has been shown to bind to KAP1.

The research is published in The EMBO Journal.

Dr Keith Vance, from the University of Bath Department of Biology & Biochemistry led the research. He said: "It is now clear that the genome expresses many non-coding RNAs that are not made into protein. Despite this, there is a lot of controversy regarding their function. Some groups argue that these non-coding RNAs are a result of transcriptional noise with no apparent use whilst others think that the vast majority of them must be doing something important.

"We have shown here good evidence that one of these genes, called Paupar, is important for development of the brain.

"It's a young field, but I think it's clear we have to reassess the central dogma of molecular biology that DNA is transcribed to RNA that codes for a protein. We're now seeing that some RNAs can go off and do something themselves.

"Our findings also help us understand the essential role of KAP1, which is something we're really interested in as we look at the development of the central nervous system."
-end-
This research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

For further information, please contact Chris Melvin in the University of Bath Press Office on +44 (0)1225 383941 or +44 (0)7976 828268 or c.m.melvin@bath.ac.uk.

Notes

Animal research at Bath

The University of Bath has signed the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. The University is committed to enhancing our communications with the media and public about our research using animals. Find out more: http://www.bath.ac.uk/collections/animal-research/

University of Bath

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities both in terms of research and our reputation for excellence in teaching, learning and graduate prospects.

The University is rated Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the Government's assessment of teaching quality in universities, meaning its teaching is of the highest quality in the UK.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 research assessment 87 per cent of our research was defined as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. From developing fuel efficient cars of the future, to identifying infectious diseases more quickly, or working to improve the lives of female farmers in West Africa, research from Bath is making a difference around the world. Find out more: http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/

Well established as a nurturing environment for enterprising minds, Bath is ranked highly in all national league tables. We are ranked 5th in the UK by The Guardian University Guide 2018 and 6th for graduate employment. According to the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2017, we are in the top 5 universities students would recommend to a friend. Bath has also been named Sports University of the Year 2018 by The Times and Sunday Times.

University of Bath

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.