Um quebra-cabeça celular: a estranha e maravilhosa arquitetura do RNA

quarta-feira, julho 22, 2015

A cellular puzzle: The weird and wonderful architecture of RNA

Cells contain an ocean of twisting and turning RNA molecules. 

Now researchers are working out the structures — and how important they could be.

Elie Dolgin
22 July 2015

Illustration by Nik Spencer/Nature; structures courtesy Harry Noller, UCSC

When Philip Bevilacqua decided to work out the shapes of all the RNA molecules in a living plant cell, he faced two problems. First, he had not studied plant biology since high school. And second, biochemists had tended to examine single RNA molecules; tackling the multitudes that waft around in a cell was a much thornier challenge.

Bevilacqua, an RNA chemist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, was undeterred. He knew that RNA molecules were vital regulators of cell biology and that their structures might offer broad lessons about how they work. He brushed up on plant anatomy in an undergraduate course and worked with molecular plant biologist Sarah Assmann to develop a technique that could cope with RNAs at scale.
In November 2013, they and their teams became the first to describe the shapes of thousands of RNAs in a living cell — revealing a veritable sculpture garden of different forms in the weedy thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana1. One month later, a group at the University of California, San Francisco, reported a comparable study of yeast and human cells2. The number of RNA structures they managed to resolve was “unprecedented”, says Alain Laederach, an RNA biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)....