Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Common RNA Modification Linked to Obesity

According to an article in "Medical News Today" on October 18th, a team of researchers at the University of Chicago have taken large strides in uncovering the connection between a specific genetic protein and obesity.
In 2007, European researchers studied the FTO gene, located on chromosome 16. They found a connection between one of the gene's alleles and obesity and/or diabetes II. Until now, though, not much else about this gene was known.
The team at U of Chicago (led by Professor Chuan He) has discovered a "reversible RNA modification process mediated by the FTO protein upon biological regulation" (Medical News Today).
In the past, scientists knew that the FTO protein conducted a process called "methylation" during mRNA coding on a rare, specific gene. "Methylation" involves the removal of the methyl group from a nucleic acid. Thanks to Professor He's team, we now know two new things about methylation. First, it is "reversible," meaning that the FTO protein can both add and remove the methyl from the nucleic acid. Second, it is much more common than previously thought. In fact, the FTO protein conducts methylation on a common messenger RNA called N6-methyladenosine, meaning it adds or removes the methyl from the common base adenosine.
The team at University of Chicago determined that methylation plays a crucial role in the human body's regulation of its biochemical equilibrium. In addition, this process is common throughout the mammal kingdom!
This discovery may lead to novel anti-obesity treatments in the future. Although the functional role of this process is not known yet, it opens the door for much more research in RNA epistemology. In other words, RNA is more important that we might have thought!

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