RNA-driven genetic changes in bacteria and in human cells

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A new study demonstrates RNA-driven genetic changes in bacteria and in human cells.
Not long ago, it was considered that the major role played by RNA was to carry genetic information for protein synthesis. Although an astonishing variety of RNA functions have been found in the last few decades, it has always been very difficult to determine if any RNA has the capacity to genetically modify the DNA of cells.

A double-strand break in the DNA genome of human embryonic kidney cells was repaired by RNA-containing molecules, which restored the function of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene, making the human cells fluoresce green.

By using RNA-containing oligos, the Storici’s team (Assistant Professor, School of Biology) has found that RNA can function as a template for DNA synthesis without being reverse transcribed into cDNA, not only in yeast but also in Escherichia coli and in the human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) cells. These findings establish that a direct flow of genetic information from RNA to DNA can occur in organisms as diverse as bacteria and humans, and thus, it can be a significant source of genetic variation. The goal of future research is to understand the mechanisms by which RNA can directly transfer information to the DNA of cells and to reveal the circumstances in which RNA information can flow to DNA.
The study, which was published April 14 in the advance online edition of the journal Mutation Research, was conducted by a group of graduate and undergraduate students in the Storici’s lab in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech in collaboration with Bernard Weiss from Emory University School of Medicine.


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    Floyd Wood
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    Fletcher Moore
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