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Digital art representation of protein bound to an RNA molecule.

Bioinformatics researchers at IUPUI propose new model for gene regulation

September 10, 2018

Work by Indiana University researchers sheds new light on how DNA becomes RNA.

Photo of bioinformatics researcher Raja Kadumuri

Raja Kadumuri

In a new paper titled “Epitranscriptomic code and its alterations in human disease,” researchers Raja Shekar Kadumuri and Sarath Chandra Janga of the Department of BioHealth Informatics at the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI explore the factors that control the proteins that translate DNA to RNA.

In their paper, Kadumuri and Janga surveyed and compiled the literature to date on RNA modifications — a field increasingly being referred to as epitranscriptomics — and summarized significant findings.

Additionally, they have proposed a new model for how genes are regulated in a cell.

Photo of bioinformatics professor Sarath Janga

Sarath Janga

RNA plays an important role in human health. Since many diseases — neurological diseases, developmental defects, multiple types of cancer — are directly due to “incorrect” forms of RNA, treatments targeting the components that modify RNA may offer new ways to fight these diseases.

In their paper, Kadumuri and Janga hypothesize that there may be more regulation of RNA protein production than previously thought. More than 160 unique RNA modifications have been documented to date. These modifications act like cellular traffic signals, turning access to RNA on or off.

“We are identifying the ‘traffic lights’ for every gene in a cell across the length of the gene so that we can uncover the code’s full potential. We’re also studying how it impacts other traffic lights in a gene,” Janga said. “In other words, we are developing experimental and computational methods to identify this code in human RNA.”

Kadumuri and Janga are currently generating data to extend their observations.

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