For the first time, scientists have released a beautiful video of the RNA folding mechanism | Sciences

In view of the great interest in the development of effective vaccines to tackle the disease “Covid-19”, there has been talk of RNA vaccines, which have achieved remarkable success in the development of antibodies resistant to the “SARS” -virus is. -Cove-2 “that causes the disease.

Finally, a new study led by Northwestern University solved the mystery of folding RNA molecules to fit cells and perform specific functions.

In this study, published in the journal Molecular Cell on January 15, scientists were able to develop a new technique for imaging videos of “RNA” – the genetic molecule that tells cells how to build proteins. – Using experimental data. and a computer algorithm.

Astonishing new videos show how the RNA becomes entangled in a crazy node as it forms, only to break itself apart at the last second, in a way that has surprised scientists.

Learning how to cross-link and disrupt RNA is key to understanding how cells work and how proteins are formed; The findings could break a barrier to understanding and developing treatments for RNA-related diseases, including spinal muscle atrophy and possibly even the new coronavirus.


It is known that there are two types of nucleic acids: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is found in the nucleus of living cells, and DNA called RNA, which is found in almost all organisms, living and viruses.

In most cases, RNA exists in the form of a single short chain that varies in length from a number of nucleotides to thousands of them, and it performs some cellular functions, plays an important role in the translation process, and has several roles. in the transport of, coding and decoding Encoding and regulating the expression of genetic information and catalyzing many chemical reactions. ?

There is no permanent stable structure taken up by the “RNA”, but the sequence itself can take a number of structures depending on the type of linker and cellular physiological and chemical conditions, and it has been noted that it has more than 150 types of linkage. has.

The genomes of many viruses contain “RNA” only as a carrier of genetic information, and there are studies to use “RNA” molecules in the treatment and manufacture of vaccines; By targeting viral genes to silence them and fight infection and disease.

RNA will not function properly if trapped in the wrong node (Maria Voigt – Wikimedia)

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In the experiments, the team used a specific type of RNA – called a signal recognition molecule (SRP) – as a model, because it serves an essential function in a number of cell types, and is an ancient evolutionary molecule found in all kingdoms. prevent. of life. ?

To zoom in on how cells build this DNA, the team used chemicals to interrupt the building process, and then recorded how its constituent molecules interacted within the cell. By capturing individual data, the team developed snapshots of how RNA is generally constructed over time.

These photos acted as individual frames while the final videos would become the RNA formation. The algorithm basically merged individual frames into mini-movies and filled in the gaps between frames.

In these videos, the team noticed how claws of RNA in nodes would render the entire molecule useless. The SRP is supposed to be shaped like a hairpin, and these traps seem to get in the way, but the addition of more new nucleotides to the sequence will cause it to loosen the knot by displacing the entangled nucleotides inside.

“RNA will not function properly if it gets trapped in the wrong node, which means there is a node getting in the way,” study author Julius Lacks, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and a member of the Center for Synthetic Biology at Northwestern University said in a university news release its final form.

“What was amazing was how she got out of this trap … We only discovered it when we had HD videos,” he added.

The big question is whether RNA can detach itself from these nodes, and whether it sometimes needs helper proteins to facilitate the process.

It is possible, says Lacks, that certain proteins, called “facilitators of RNA,” may work together with RNA, which helps to form the molecule into its final form.

The results of the new research help to treat diseases in which the RNA does not work properly, or cases in which a specific protein can not be formed, such as spinal muscle atrophy and infectious diseases such as “Covid-19” caused by it. viruses.

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