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Circular RNAs hint at new realm of genetics

04 April 2017

For decades, loops of genetic material known as circular RNA were considered a kind of genetic accident. But scientists have given them new attention in recent years, and a set of papers published this month suggests some of them actually give rise to proteins, just like their more familiar, linear counterparts, messenger RNA. The new research reveals that, despite their unusual structure, circular RNAs can communicate with ribosomes, the cell’s protein making machinery. And several proteins in fly, mouse, and human cells appear to be translated from circular RNAs. Researchers haven’t yet shown that these new proteins have an important function, many suspect they are a previously unrecognized way that cells control gene expression.

Last modified:04 April 2017 12.44 p.m.

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