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Newly Explored Bacteria Reveal Some Huge RNA Surprises

Yale University researchers have found very large RNA structures within previously unstudied bacteria that appear crucial to basic biological functions such as helping viruses infect cells or allowing genes to "jump" to different parts of the chromosome.

These exceptionally large RNA molecules have been discovered using DNA sequence data available within the past few years. The findings, reported in the December 3 issue of the journal Nature, suggest many other unusual RNAs remain to be found as researchers explore the genes of more species of bacteria, said Ronald Breaker, senior author of the paper and professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

"Our work reveals new classes of large RNAs exist, which would be akin to protein scientists finding new classes of enzymes," said Breaker, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "Since we have only scratched the surface when it comes to examining microbial DNA that is covering the planet ā€“ there will certainly be many more large RNAs out there to discover and these newfound RNAs are also likely to have amazing functions as well."

The RNA molecules rank among the largest and most sophisticated RNAs yet discovered and may act like enzymes or carry out other complex functions in bacteria. The RNAs are found in bacteria which have yet to be grown in labs and so have been difficult to study.

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