Byproducts of 'junk DNA' implicated in cancer spread
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IMAGE: This is UC San Diego Biological Sciences graduate student Homa Rahnamoun (left) and Assistant Professor Shannon Lauberth. view more 

Credit: UC San Diego

The more scientists explore so-called “junk” DNA, the less the label seems to fit.

Only an estimated two percent of the human genome encodes for functional proteins that carry out normal biological processes. The remaining approximately 98 percent–the “junk DNA”–has for many years been considered a useless artifact. Some junk DNA has been shown to be transcribed into RNA molecules that support cellular functions, including transfer RNAs (tRNAS) and microRNAs (miRNAs), while the remaining noncoding RNA has continued to be considered nonfunctional “junk” RNA.

Previous work by researchers at the University of California San Diego in Assistant Professor Shannon Lauberth’s lab uncovered several thousand enhancer RNAs (eRNAs) that are robustly produced in colon cancer cells in response to chronic immune signaling. eRNAs are a recently identified class of noncoding RNAs and their identification has begged the interesting question of whether they are functional in the cell. Now, members of the Lauberth team have revealed that eRNAs play a significant role in cancer dissemination.

Publishing their results in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, UC San Diego

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Article originally posted at
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