To know how a gene works, we need to redefine it first but then, more importantly, to let the cell itself decide how to transcribe and process its RNAs

Yuping Jia, Lichan Chen, Yukui Ma, Jian Zhang, Ningzhi Xu, Dezhong Joshua Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent genomic and ribonomic research reveals that our genome produces a stupendous amount of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), including antisense RNAs, and that many genes contain other gene(s) in their introns. Since ncRNAs either regulate the transcription, translation or stability of mRNAs or directly exert cellular functions, they should be regarded as the fourth category of RNAs, after ribosomal, messenger and transfer RNAs. These and other research advances challenge the current concept of gene and raise a question as to how we should redefine gene. We can either consider each tiny part of the classically-defined gene, such as each mRNA variant, as a “gene”, or, alternatively and oppositely, regard a whole genomic locus as a “gene” that may contain intron-embedded genes and produce different types of RNAs and proteins. Each of the two ways to redefine gene not only has its strengths and weaknesses but also has its particular concern on the methodology for the determination of the gene’s function: Ectopic expression of complementary DNA (cDNA) in cells has in the past decades provided us with great deal of detail about the functions of individual mRNA variants, and will make the data less conflicting with each other if just a small part of a classically-defined gene is considered as a “gene”. On the other hand, genomic DNA (gDNA) will better help us in understanding the collective function of a genomic locus. In our opinion, we need to be more cautious in the use of cDNA and in the explanation of data resulting from cDNA, and, instead, should make delivery of gDNA into cells routine in determination of genes’ functions, although this demands some technology renovation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1413-1423
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Sciences
Volume11
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 19 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Ivyspring International Publisher.

Keywords

  • Complementary DNA
  • Gene definition
  • Gene function
  • Genomic locus
  • Non-coding RNA

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