RNA altered in 57,000 spots to create proteins not coded in DNA
Roger Hanlon, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA
A species of squid can alter vast amounts of its genetic instructions after they are copied from DNA into RNA, a study reported January 8 in eLife finds. The squid edit their RNA more than any other species yet studied, allowing them to create proteins that are not coded for in their DNA.
“If you edit RNA at multiple sites, you really start to create diversity,” says study coauthor Joshua Rosenthal, a neurobiologist at the University of Puerto Rico. “From a single gene you can make a lot more proteins.” The researchers have not determined what role the edited proteins play, but speculate that the changes may help the animals adapt to their surroundings.
The researchers compared squid DNA to a transcript of the animals’ protein-coding RNA. So much of the RNA had been altered that, the authors argue, RNA editing may be a common process in the animal kingdom to modify biology’s central dogma, which describes a more direct