Sunday, February 13, 2011

A New Way of Regulating Human Genes?

Larry Moran is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. He has strongly held opinions, but he seems to know what he's talking about.

In a blog posting Feb 12, 2011 he discusses a recent paper, which has gotten a lot of attention—such as this from Science Daily.
"Previously, no one knew what Alu elements and long noncoding RNAs did, whether they were junk or if they had any purpose. Now, we've shown that they actually have important roles in regulating protein production," said Maquat, the J. Lowell Orbison Chair, professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and director of the Center for RNA Biology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Moran says,
The correct statement is that we've known for decades that the vast majority of Alu elements in the genome do absolutely nothing. However, there are a dozen examples already in the scientific literature of Alu sequences that affect transcription, RNA processing, mRNA, or translation. They've all proven to be unique, rare, cases. We strongly suspect that most long noncoding RNAs are junk but there are some excellent examples of ones that are functional.

Lynne Maquat has shown an effect of a transcribed Alu sequence but it's simply not true that every obscure phenomenon reveals an important role in regulating protein production. And it's simply not true that this example has any implications for the vast majority of Alu sequences in the genome. Save the hype for your grant application.
Both the University of Rochester and the University of Toronto are well-respected research institutions. Moran and Maquat are both senior scientists. What should the public do in cases like this?

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Listen to Larry, obviously.