Study: MicroRNA fine-tunes brain synapses
BOSTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) — Scientists at Children’s Hospital Boston say they’ve found the first evidence that microRNAs have a role in the functioning of synapses in the brain.
The researchers believe microRNAs fine-tune cognitive function, and may be relevant to mental retardation and autism.
The scientists explained that non-coding regions of the genome — those that don’t have instructions for building proteins — are now known to include important elements that regulate gene activity. Among such elements are microRNAs — tiny, recently discovered RNA molecules that suppress gene expression.
Increasing evidence indicates a role for microRNAs in the developing nervous system, and the Children’s Hospital Boston researchers have demonstrated that one microRNA affects the development of synapses — the points of communication between brain cells that underlie learning and memory.
“This paper provides the first evidence that microRNAs have a role at the synapse, allowing for a new level of regulation of gene expression,” said senior author Michael Greenberg, director of neuroscience at the hospital. “What we’ve found is a new mechanism for regulating brain function.”
The study is detailed in the current issue of the journal Nature.