Brain Cancer Linked To A Lack Of RNA Editing

Insufficient RNA editing in brain tissues could drive the growth of aggressive tumors, scientists say.

AsianScientist (Jun. 27, 2017) – Scientists in India and the UK have observed a lack of ‘editing’ in the microRNAs of the brain tissues of brain cancer patients. Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, raise the possibility of using genome engineering techniques to slow or reverse the march of the disease.

MicroRNAs are a special type of RNA molecules that do not code for proteins but participate in crucial regulatory functions. They can introduce targeted variations in organization of their building blocks, a process known as editing. In turn, editing can enable RNA molecules to expand their functional repertoire, a process vital for maintaining cell diversity.

In the present study, researchers from the CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology showed that a specific organization of these building blocks promote the occurrence of targeted variations, and that certain variations are decreased in patients with brain cancer.

The team also examined normal microRNA editing patterns in 13 human tissue types and found the healthy brain to have the highest amount of editing—implicating the importance of the observed drop in case of brain cancers.

“What precisely is happening, we can’t say, but with altered levels and positions of these editing events, cellular output can be significantly altered which we see in case of cancers,” said study co-author Dr. Arijit Mukhopadhyay from the University of Salford.

The findings pose the question of whether we can re-establish biochemically the RNA editing process using genome engineering techniques like CRISPR to revert the biological outcome, he added.

The article can be found at: Paul et al. (2017) A-to-I Editing in Human miRNAs is Enriched in Seed Sequence, Influenced by Sequence Contexts and Significantly Hypoedited in Glioblastoma Multiforme.


Source: University of Salford; Photo: Shutterstock.
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