Researchers ‘Switch On’ Tumor Suppressor Using Non-Coding RNA

Researchers have found that a novel noncoding RNA offers the potential for ‘switching on’ of tumor suppressors that have been shut off.

AsianScientist (Oct. 21, 2013) – Researchers in the US and Singapore have found that a novel noncoding ribonucleic acid (RNA) offers the potential for ‘switching on’ of tumor suppressors that have been shut off.

The researchers, based at Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, focused on a new class of RNAs, which is critical in regulating DNA methylation (the modification of DNA with no change in the code itself).

DNA methylation is associated with silencing of gene expression in many diseases. In cancer, for example, tumor suppressor genes are often silenced or shut off by DNA methylation.

In the study, published in the journal Nature, the researchers studied the action of noncoding RNA on a specific tumor suppressor known as CEBPA. The silencing of CEPBA is associated with acute myeloid leukemia, lung cancer and other types of cancer.

The researchers demonstrated for first time that noncoding RNA binds to an enzyme essential for DNA methylation, known as DNA methyl transferase 1 (DNMT1), and prevents DNA methylation of the CEBPA gene.

“We started out by studying the noncoding RNA to satisfy our scientific curiosity. In the process, we discovered the novel finding that RNA inhibits methylation and experimentally, we can introduce RNAs to ‘switch on’ tumor suppressors which have been shut off. Our results suggest strategies for gene-selective demethylation of therapeutic targets in human diseases such as cancer,” said Professor Daniel Tenen, Director of CSI Singapore.

Using this concept, the researchers hope to develop tools to ‘switch on’ other tumor suppressors besides CEBPA, and investigate the role of RNA in regulating other epigenetic marks.

The article can be found at: Di Ruscio A et al. (2013) DNMT1-interacting RNAs block gene-specific DNA methylation.

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Source: NUS; Photo: brendonhatcher/Flickr/CC.
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