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A research team from Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising and previously unrecognized role for introns, the parts of genes that lack the instructions for making proteins and are typically cut away and rapidly destroyed. Through studies of baker's yeast, the researchers identified a highly unusual group of introns that linger and accumulate, in their fully intact form, long after they have been freed from their neighboring sequences, which are called exons. Importantly, these persistent introns play a role in regulating yeast growth, particularly under stressful conditions.
The researchers, whose work appears online in the journal Nature, suggest that some introns also might accumulate and carry out functions in other organisms.
Time - Anyone - Role - Full-length - Introns
"This is the first time anyone has found a biological role for full-length, excised introns," says senior author David Bartel, a member of the Whitehead Institute. "Our findings challenge the view of these introns as simply byproducts of gene expression, destined for rapid degradation."
Imagine the DNA that makes up your genes as the raw footage of a movie. The exons are the scenes used in the final cut, whereas the introns are the outtakes—shots that are removed, or spliced out, and therefore not represented in the finished product.
Second-class - Status - Introns - Variety - Roles
Despite their second-class status, introns are known to play a variety of important roles. Yet these activities are primarily confined to the period prior to splicing—that is, before introns are separated from their nearby exons. After splicing, some introns can be whittled down and retained for other uses—part of a group of so-called "non-coding RNAs." But by and large, introns have been thought to be relegated to the genome's cutting room floor.
Bartel and his Whitehead Institute colleagues, including world-renowned yeast expert Gerald Fink, now add an astonishing new dimension to this view: Full-length introns—that is, those that have been cut out but remain otherwise...
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