A group of researchers led by Prof. Hess at the University of Freiburg reports on the use of both strands of the DNA double helix during the copying of the genetic information encoded by the genes. As reported in the renowned scientific magazine Molecular Systems Biology, the antisense RNA created during this process can contribute to the development of new therapeutic concepts.
The double helix of the DNA, the genetic material found in all living cells, contains a linear arrangement of genes whose information is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) during growth and development processes. So say the reference books.
In an article in the renowned scientific magazine Molecular Systems Biology (online publication on 15th September 2009, “Evidence for a major role of antisense RNAs in cyanobacterial gene regulation”), researchers led by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang R. Hess at the University of Freiburg now report that both strands of the DNA double helix are used for the transcription of genetic information. Using Cyanobacteria Synechocystis, the researchers discovered that the genetic information needed to produce a protein is often not only read from one DNA strand, but that the anti-parallel strand which runs in the opposite direction is also active. This results in the creation of a second RNA molecule with opposing orientation, which is referred to as antisense RNA.
Similar observations have recently been made in higher organisms, including humans. So far scant evidence has been available on the existence of such processes in bacteria, in particular with regard to so-called extrachromosomal elements, for example antibiotic-resistance plasmids or bacteriophages (viruses that attack bacteria). The group’s observations now show that such antisense RNAs also occur in bacteria and that they might be actively involved in the regulation of genetic information. This also suggests that these rather simple organisms are more complex than previously believed. Cyanobacteria have recently gained increasing importance in science due to their ability to produce sought-after biomolecules through the direct use of solar energy (photosynthesis). The potential role of a large number of such antisense RNAs in bacteria needs to be taken into account when using these organisms for such purposes and might also lead to new concepts in the field of medicine in the fight against human pathogenic bacteria.