According to a new study conducted in the Scripps Research Laboratory, recently discovered long noncoding RNAs play a highly important role in the healthy functioning and maintenance of synapses, which basically are the communication points between nerve cells in the brain.
The laboratory is managed by Sathyanarayanan Puthanveettil who is a Ph.D.. According to Puthanveettil, long noncoding RNAs are mainly like ‘the dark matter of a genome.’ And with this thought, one can further say that a systematic study of their functions can shed more light on the molecular mechanisms of brain development, long-term memories storage, and deterioration of memory with increasing age and dementia.
Until now, scientists had gathered an immense knowledge about genetics, especially with respect to how brain cells reach out and communicate with each other. And until now the role of noncoding RNA was understood very less. However, according to the latest research, the longest noncoding RNAs, which are over 200 nucleotides in length, can help determine which genes are activated and operating in the brain cells at different times.
To be specific, a long non-coding RNA called GM12371 controls the expression of multiple genes involved in neuron system development and functioning. In addition, the RNA also has an effect on the development of neurons’ shape and ability to signal. In hippocampus cells of mice, learning-based signaling up-regulates GM1271. However, the reduction of this signaling decreases inactive neurons which have sparse branches.
This study was written in the journal called Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Puthanveettil along with some of his colleagues. Further research is expected to be carried out by the scientists in the near future. This research is expected to suggest that healthy growth and development of brain cells and brain circuits depends not only specific proteins but also upon specific long non-coding RNAs.